To help recruit more qualified school bus drivers to Richmond County, Augusta Technical College is moving toward a partnership with the school system for a driver training program.
The Richmond County Board of Education’s Human Resources Committee gave initial approval Tuesday to loan buses, a simulator and track space for a Commercial Straight Truck and Passenger Driving Program that will be offered in the fall at Augusta Tech.
The full school board will take a final vote at its regular meeting next Tuesday.
The 15-week course will train candidates in the fundamentals of driving and operation and give graduates a technical certificate of credit, according to Rick Hall, the vice president of academic affairs at Augusta Tech. Candidates would have to report to the school system for further certification and then the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a commercial drivers license.
The Richmond County school system already provides free, unpaid training to candidates applying for driving jobs. The course at Augusta Tech would enhance candidates’ abilities and create a more-qualified applicant pool, said Jimmie Wiley, the school system’s director of transportation.
“Anytime you’re transporting precious cargo, you’re needing the best candidates possible,” he said. “This also gives the person an opportunity to know up front if it’s for them because driving a school bus is not for everybody.”
Hall said the partnership has been about one year in the making and came about because of a shortage of drivers in the area.
Students taking the $675 course would get hands-on training, he said.
Officials hope to recruit 30 students for the first class and another 30 in spring 2013.
Committee member Barbara Pulliam expressed concern about devoting resources to candidates who might not apply for jobs in the district and suggested requiring a local commitment.
Wiley said the program is geared toward school bus drivers because the certification is for “straight trucks,” which include school buses but not tractor-trailers and other jointed vehicles. The school system’s in-house training doesn’t require trainees to apply for a job with the district upon completion.
“We really run no more risk with this program than we do right now,” Acting Superintendent James Whitson said.