“Skills for Success” training program debuts to solve bus driver shortage
By Maria Rakoczy
Madison City Schools and Alabama Community College System held a joint press conference on Wednesday to announce the inaugural Skills for Success Training Program. The program is a solution to the severe shortage of bus drivers, from which, school systems statewide have been suffering since a federal update to bus driver standards has discouraged candidates for the positions.
Skills for Success partners Alabama school systems with state community colleges to increase the number of bus drivers. Madison City was one of the first customers to the program designed to alleviate the cost of bus driver training from the school districts.
“Being able to work with the community college system to quickly train new bus drivers addresses an urgent need that is critically important to students and parents,” Eric Terrell, Assistant Superintendent of Madison City Schools says.
The program was made possible thanks to $10 million in funding granted by the legislature for the ACCS Innovation Center and Skills for Success. It has taken the burden of cost off of the individual districts, and Houston Blackwood of the ACCS said the program has already saved the school systems over $400,000 along with the priceless benefit of serving students and parents with reliable bus routes.
The program is meant to be free to participants as well as convenient, taking just 10 days in total to complete and with an online preparation portion. Three participants in the pilot program were present at the press conference and all shared just how convenient the program was to complete. They all found the online portion flexible to complete, and helpful in preparing for the final test and ultimately to drive by providing feedback, diagrams, and objectives with each segment.
After participants pass the online and behind-the-wheel portions, the program awards them all of the proper certifications including a Commercial Driver License, Alabama School Bus, Certification, and an ACCS Credential, but in a free and more efficient manner.
A participant in the program, Hiram Holt, a teacher at Discovery Middle School, and now a bus driver as well, has found that his additional role of bus driver has allowed him to build better understanding with his students in the classroom: “I get to see some of them before they get to my classroom, and if they’ve experienced something rough in the morning time, I see that, and it helps me in the classroom.”
Skills for Success has already trained 145 new bus drivers and is working with more than 100 school systems around the state to continue to alleviate the bus driver shortage.