With in-person learning returning to area schools, requests are mounting daily for certified school bus drivers to deliver students safely to and from schools in districts from Napa to Fairfield, Stockton, to Watsonville and beyond, says Michael Brown, founder of Michael’s Transportation.
At the same time, millions of people are looking for well-paid jobs/careers, having lost theirs to the pandemic. Brown and the Midsi Sanchez Foundation have teamed up to create solutions all around, they said.
“The challenge right now is getting people back to work,” Brown said. “There was a driver shortage before the pandemic shut the schools down, and some people have retired and others have moved on to other careers. But, we need to get the children back to school, so we’re stepping up our efforts to recruit drivers.”
Founded in 1982 and an employee-owned company for more than a decade, Vallejo’s Michael’s Transportation offers training in bus and truck driving and certification in school bus driving, all of which can be free to the applicant. They also provide placement for graduates, many of them with the firm itself.
As of early this week, the company has requests for 75 drivers, including eight for the Napa Valley Unified School District, and openings are increasing weekly, Brown said. “Before the pandemic, there were 1,200 state certified school bus driver instructors, and now there are about 600,” Brown said, adding that becoming an instructor is one career path trained drivers can opt for. He describes transportation as a crucial part of the education system, helping reduce truancy and traffic congestion around schools.
For every driver recruited and hired through this effort, the Midsi Sanchez Foundation gets a $500 donation. Sanchez, now 28, was abducted by convicted serial child killer Curtis Dean Anderson, on her way home from school in Vallejo when she was 8, and managed to escape after some two days in captivity by unlocking the chain with which she was bound to the steering column of her abductor’s car, and jumping out the window. Her efforts following her escape helped authorities track down Anderson, who subsequently died in prison.
Sanchez is now a mom herself, and an advocate for missing and exploited children, through her foundation.
“I’m passionate about being in service; about helping people, and this seemed like a great opportunity to help people recover from the pandemic,” Sanchez said. “I’m excited about the response I’m already getting and how desperate people are to get back to work.”
A fortuitous connection between Midsi and Pastor Anthony Summers, Michael’s director of development, lead to the partnership, Brown said.
“Midsi has a following, and we asked for her support, and she’s gotten us 15 referrals already,” Brown said. “We hope to help the kids get to school and make a dent in the unemployment situation at the same time.”
Besides school buses, Michael’s trains and provides drivers of trucks and other kinds of large conveyances, Summers said, adding that once certified as a school bus driver, a person can be hired to drive nearly anything.
“If it has wheels on it, we can get you licensed,” he said. “We serve the transportation industry, providing drivers.”
It’s a career that pays well and offers advancement opportunities, Brown said.
“(What we offer) is the equivalent of a master’s degree in transportation industry,” he said of the training provided.
And you never know where it could lead, he said, pointing out that President Joe Biden worked his way through law school driving a school bus.