School Bus Drivers Needed in Syracuse School Bus Drivers Needed in Syracuse

REPORTER LAUREN HELMBRECHT: Dozens of bus drivers helped potential new coworkers take a lap around a Destiny U-S-A parking lot today at a hands-on hiring event. Safety Supervisor Tyrone Jackson hopes the event will put more people behind the wheel. He says staff members had to step up to fill in employment gaps after drivers left due to fear of COVID.

TYRONE JACKSON: “That’s why we’re trying to recruit new drivers so we can be off the road and do our own jobs.

LAUREN HELMBRECHT: And because of the pandemic, 14-year veteran driver, Alex Sanes says new hires aren’t the only ones who need to learn a thing or two.

ALEX SANES: “Before it was ‘Sit down!’, now it’s ‘Pull your mask up’!”

LAUREN HELMBRECHT: Over 20 drivers got a chance to steer the bus today. After a background check, the company First Student will train qualified drivers before kids head back to school this fall. Lauren Helmbrecht, N-C-C News.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — With just six weeks until the first day of classes, the transportation partner of the Syracuse City School District held their first-ever in-person hiring event. On Wednesday, First Student let potential new drivers get behind the wheel in a Destiny USA parking lot.

The national bus driver shortage is impacting several Central New York school districts, including Syracuse. First Student staff members hoped that by getting sit in the driver’s seat, interested people would be more likely to apply for open positions.

“That’s why we’re doing this event because everyone is scared of the size of the buses,” said Tyrone Jackson, First Student Safety Supervisor.  Jackson, a ten-year veteran driver now in a staff position, found himself back behind the wheel this past year to fill employment gaps after drivers left due to fear of COVID-19.

Two yellow school buses in a parking lot.
Interested drivers could drive one of two First Student buses around a Destiny USA parking lot.
© 2021 Lauren Helmbrecht

Over 20 people had a chance to steer the bus, including Veronica Chapman. The mother of three said she’d feel comfortable driving children to school amidst the changing COVID recommendations from the Center for Disease Control. “As long as I keep the mask on. They have their masks on too.”

After taking a lap around the parking lot with the help of a current First Student staff member, interested drivers could apply for a job on site. Central New York Driver Recruiter Robin Hansen said “my ideal candidate is actually anyone 21 and older that has a wonderful driving history already.”

Woman stands at a table holds a First Student paper fan.
CNY Driver Recruiter Robin Hansen welcomed interested drivers.
© 2021 Lauren Helmbrecht

Applicants with Commercial Driver’s Licenses credentials were preferred, but Hansen said First Student will train all qualified candidates in the next month before school starts in September.

First Student is accepting applications on their website if interested drivers were unable to attend the event in person. The starting salary for new drivers is $21.36 per hour and until August 15th, credentialled drivers could qualify for a $5,000 signing bonus.

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