PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — As we continue to rebound from the pandemic, many people are still out of work and are looking for a more stable career path.
Now, job-seekers can consider a new opportunity from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, where officials are hiring 86 bus drivers over the next year. They are also looking for fleet maintenance operators.
ABC Action News spoke with long-time bus driver Stacey Johnson, who left the restaurant industry to work for PSTA about 14 years ago.
"My payscale in restaurant work was never consistent," Johnson said. "You're going to start out on the bottom just like you would do in any job. You're going to work your way to the top. But it's always going to get better."
Now Johnson, alongside A.J. Ortiz, a safety training supervisor, are part of the crew looking to recruit and train more than 80 new drivers in the next 12 months.
"I tell everybody, no experience is needed," Ortiz said. "As long as you have a good heart, we can teach you how to drive a bus."
New driver applicants do need to have a clean driving record and at least five years of basic driving experience. However, no commercial driver's license is required to get hired.
New drivers will get paid $12 per hour to complete CDL training, on-site at PSTA headquarters, for eight weeks. Drivers will then take a test to pass the State of Florida's CDL exam. Upon graduation, drivers receive a raise to $15 dollars per hour.
Ortiz said there are lots of opportunities for advancement.
"I've been given multiple opportunities and have bettered myself," he said.
PSTA said the pandemic has shown how essential the services are that they provide and these jobs are both recession and pandemic-proof.
Johnson said new drivers should expect to drive a lot and expect certain stressors, such as difficult passengers, lots of traffic, and navigating a pandemic world.
However, she said people who love customer service will thrive in this position.
"If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life," Johnson said.