School Bus Group Launches Campaign to Recruit Drivers

Recruiting school bus drivers has always been a challenge, but the current nationwide worker shortage is making more difficult. A multipronged campaign aims to turn that around and get drivers back on the road.

The national shortage of workers is exacerbated in certain sectors that have long-time challenges in recruiting staff, like the school bus industry. The problem predates COVID-19, but the pandemic made it worse, said Ryan Dellinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association (PSBA). “We are by no means a stranger to the shortage issue that everyone’s facing right now,” he said.

Across Pennsylvania, 88 percent of K-12 students from urban, rural, and suburban communities begin and end their day on the school bus. The shortage of drivers jeopardizes Pennsylvania’s ability to get 1.5 million students back and forth safely to school, sporting events, and activities.

A solution? PSBA recently launched a school bus driver recruitment campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the school bus driver shortage and providing several different kinds of resources that can be used to recruit new school bus drivers.

Assemble a Task Force

Dellinger joined PSBA in February and restarted the campaign, which was initiated by his predecessor. The group formed a Driver Recruitment Campaign task force to ensure the “You Behind the Wheel” campaign would raise awareness about the benefits of becoming a professional school bus driver. The task force consisted of contractor members and PSBA’s vendors, including a PR firm and a website design company.

The campaign consists of two websites, a content microsite that is designed to get people excited about the school bus industry, which includes salary information and other benefits, and a public-facing site that has a job board showing which PSBA school bus contractors are hiring and where prospects can find driver openings nearby.

Preparation Is Key

To draw attention to the websites, PSBA has several digital ad campaigns running online and on social media, including Facebook and YouTube. PSBA members can download the resources and tweak them for their own promotional initiatives. “We’re tackling this from multiple different directions to try to get us ready to go for the fall,” Dellinger said.

To get a campaign like this going which—full disclosure—Dellinger admits is a heavy lift, it is important to do the homework. “I would recommend building a strong team of people who care about whatever you are going to pursue,” he said. He adds that it’s key to draw on people from your association—not just staff members. “The ones in the association are the ones who are going to use it, and they need to be happy with it,” he said. “Just be ready take on more than you’re planning for.”

Before they launched the campaign, they surveyed members to find out how many drivers they needed. When the campaign is over, they will send members another survey. “You can’t tell how effective the recruitment efforts have been if you don’t have that baseline,” Dellinger said.

With the worker shortage, unemployment, and the stubborn vestiges of a pandemic, there are plenty of things to worry about. “You need to take action to tell the other side of that story,” Dellinger said. “Make people care about coming back to work for you, or a particular industry.”

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Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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