New ‘Step Up SC’ campaign aims to fill more school bus driver, technician jobs

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 8:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - For so many students, their bus driver is the first person to greet them on the way to school and the last person to wave goodbye before they get home.

But the South Carolina Department of Education expects to start this school year as it has the last few years: with a shortage of bus drivers and technicians.

A survey done last week of around half the state’s school districts found they are short, on average, about 15% of their bus drivers and technicians.

SCDE Director of Transportation Mike Bullman said in some districts, those figures may be as high as 25% to 30%, while in others, it may be just a few vacancies.

“A student can’t get an education if they can’t get to school, and certainly bus transportation plays a vital role in that,” Bullman said.

With the start of the new school year quickly approaching next month, Bullman said he would only anticipate “minimal impact” in most districts if those numbers do not change.

“Based on conversations that I’ve had, districts are going to be able to start school just fine with minimal issues and delays,” he said. “Ideally, certainly they want to have that number reduced, and they’re working hard toward that. That number could move up or down as we move closer to school. Let’s hope that it goes down.”

But, of course, filling more jobs reduces the likelihood of delays and bumpy starts to the year.

The South Carolina Department of Education recently launched the “Step Up SC” campaign, which highlights open bus driver and technician positions across the state.

The Step Up SC website allows people to search specific locations, find jobs close to where they live and links directly to applications on district web pages.

“A lot of times, those positions go unnoticed, and we just want to make everyone aware that there’s opportunities out there for everyone to be a part of this wonderful educational system,” Bullman said.

Drivers must be able to obtain a commercial driver’s license, be at least 18 years old, and complete certain training, which is provided, Bullman said, and requirements are similar for technicians.

“You’re able to serve the students of this state, and I can’t think of a better way than to drive a bus or work on a bus,” he said.

The current state budget, which went into effect July 1, includes an 8% raise to the statewide starting pay for bus drivers, bringing it up to $9.12 an hour.

But Bullman also noted many districts pay higher than that, saying the statewide starting average is more than $14 an hour.

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