Minnesota facing largest school bus driver shortage ever
The state is currently seeing its largest school bus driver shortage ever.
On Wednesday, which was considered Bus Driver Appreciation Day, Minnesota bus drivers were joined by local and state education officials to highlight the shortage.
The state is forced to ramp up their recruiting efforts, and they're welcoming drivers both young and old.
"Yeah, I did get into the school bus industry a little bit differently than most," said Ethan Walz, a school bus driver.
Fresh out of high school, Walz wanted to get into education and thought what better way than the school bus.
"About a week into having my license, they asked and approached me if I wanted to take on a full-time route. They had one available, and I answered, 'yes, I'd love to,'" Walz said.
But not everyone shares his eagerness to get into this field. In fact, the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association says there is a 10% to 15% vacancy in drivers, and nearly every district is facing a shortage.
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"Driving is extremely rewarding," said Jeff Powers.
Powers is the superintendent of Dassel-Cokato Schools, and even he gets called to drive.
"I call myself the bottom of the barrel bus driver because when they reach me they're really desperate," Powers said.
"We need drivers," said Dan Johnson, Director of Activities at Hopkins Schools.
Johnson said these shortages can result in fewer or canceled field trips.
"When we have those days where, 'sorry, we don't have drivers,' it's like not having an official, we say we can't play," Johnson said.
For the more than 750,000 students in Minnesota who need a ride to school, Walz understands the responsibility that comes with that.
"I know at that point, when they're opening up to me talking about home life, how their day is going at schools, that I'm making an impact on these students' lives," Walz said.
To learn more about how to become a bus driver, click here.