Finding a job in this economy is not an easy thing to do. Finding a full-time position with benefits gets even harder. As much as employers know they shouldn’t discriminate against older workers, they do it anyway. They just don’t call those workers in for an interview while readily hiring someone 30 years younger.
I recently got a full-time job after being laid off for several years. The job I got is with a major company and the job wasn’t even advertised. I happened to know several people who work for the company and one of them recommended that I put in an application. The process of being selected to get the job over dozens of others is complimentary. But there is another reason I got my new job. It’s because I hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Getting a CDL is no easy task. After the trucking scandal brought to light by the accident that killed the Willis children, the rules and procedures for getting the license changed. That scandal is also part of the reason former Governor George Ryan went to jail. The written test is now computerized, the testing facilities are limited to CDL drivers only, and if you don’t pass the test in the number of chances you are given, you have to wait a predetermined time period to retry. But if a person really wants to get a CDL, there is an industry that will teach you to drive a commercial vehicle and oftentimes pay you while you learn.
That industry is one where the “We are Hiring” sign is always out. It is an industry where your job can never be outsourced to another country. It is an industry that sees grey hairs and thinks, “That’s a good driver.”
The industry? School bus driver.
In the past, I turned my nose up at the thought of driving a big yellow bus. But what other industry still exists where you can quit one company in the morning and get hired by another in the afternoon? School bus drivers can still do it. And all school buses are not the 38-foot-long yellow mega-bus. Many of the older people I know drive the small yellow buses that are more like driving a van. They also opt to transport handicapped children who are less likely to give the driver a problem. Those buses may also have aides who help to load, unload and monitor the child while they’re on the bus.
School bus drivers serve a very important function. They safely transport a child from home to school and back, they undergo hours of training and background checks, including fingerprints, and are required to have yearly physicals. The pay for driving a school bus is all over the spectrum. Some companies are union shops and the pay is very good while others pay little more than minimum wage. Many companies supplement the guaranteed 20 hours a week in pay with additional work doing charter trips.
Some people have made driving a school bus their only form of income, while others use it to supplement their unemployment benefits or social security income. Whatever the case, the experience of driving a bus can lead to other driving jobs, so it’s one of the few industries constantly looking for workers in this country.
My biggest fear when I drove a school bus was that I didn’t want to deal with problem children. But kids being who they are know intrinsically who to mess with and who not to mess with.
Being a school bus driver is not a complete bed of roses. I did have a young girl in middle school make the fatal decision to curse at me and tell me, “F*** You, You Old A** Ugly B****,” as I chastised her for trying to get into a fight with a boy. That was her fatal mistake. But after reading her like a book and using not a single word of profanity in return, the entire bus of classmates said, “Ooh,” and that child chilled her happy butt out. A wordsmith with an arsenal of words to issue insults like Medea that can shut a smart-aleck kid up.
But incidents like the one I described are rare and not the norm. So if you’re like me – and in need of a job – give the school bus companies a call. It’s always easy to get another job when you already have one than it is to get a job when your employer’s name is “unemployed.”