Driven to Serve: Maine Recruits Veterans for Free Training to Ease Shortage of School Bus Drivers

Veterans have a drive to serve, and the Maine Department of Education is hoping more will put that drive to use literally — behind the wheel of a yellow school bus, to help ease a severe bus driver shortage.

“It made sense with their background,” said Rachel Paling, the department’s director of communications. “They oftentimes come out of the military with mechanic skills and engine skills and attention to detail and wanting to serve their communities.”

The state’s Department of Education and Department of Labor are teaming up to offer free training through the state’s Hire-A-Vet campaign, which aims to connect veterans with employers.

It’s not just vets who can participate — the free training is open to anyone who wants to drive school buses.

Maine currently has a shortage of 50 drivers, the largest in recent history, Paling said. About 2,800 school bus drivers are employed across the state. The shortage began a few years ago, and more districts began asking for help finding drivers.

Veterans make up 20 percent of the school bus driver workforce in Maine, earning $11 to $25 per hour.

School bus drivers are also in high demand nationally. The field has the second-highest number of job openings nationwide, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Transportation, and U.S. Department of Labor.

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