Amanda Sotelo, Special to the Star

By Amanda Sotelo, Special to the Star

Texas State Technical College, in partnership with Valley Metro, recently started a Professional Bus Driver Training course through TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education to help fill a regional need.

The first class began the 80-hour, two-week course on March 5 and students in the class will receive preparatory training for both written and driving exams, and will receive hands-on training thanks to a bus donation from Valley Metro.

“This course was created to provide advanced training that can lead to a good paying job,” said Adan Treviño, TSTC Continuing Education special projects coordinator. “With this class we’re filling a demand and providing highly-skilled individuals into the workforce.”

Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Valley Metro Director of Regional Transit Tom Logan said the bus donation not only ensures that students in the bus driving course receive the hands-on training they need to be successful but also helps fill an employment need.

“Public and private bus agencies are in need of certified and trained bus drivers,” said Logan. “TSTC’s training program gives us the source to hire drivers to fill our vacancies.”

Logan added that through a long-time partnership with TSTC, he has witnessed the college produce high-caliber drivers and employees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a steady job growth in the bus driving industry, growing six percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Also, data shows that Texas has a demand for drivers, employing more than 12,000.

Hoping to become one of those bus drivers is Gloria Garza, currently the only woman in the course.

The 45-year-old already holds a Class A license to drive tractor trailers, but said it is time for her to slow down and stay closer to home.

“I’ve worked hard all my life, and sometimes not the easiest work,” she said. “So this is a career change for me. It’s something stable, with benefits and close to home.”

Ruiz worked several years in Washington and Minnesota as a migrant driving tractors and harvesting corn, strawberries and blueberries. And because she was a migrant, the Motivation Education and Training (MET) program, a non-profit corporation that provides rural communities in Texas with employment training and family services, is covering her tuition, supplies and exams.

“I’m currently receiving unemployment, and having to make it stretch,” said Garza. “So receiving this kind of help is invaluable. I know there are good things, better things, ahead for me because of this course and assistance.”

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said training students like Garza is what these types of partnerships and courses are all about.

“We’re continuously looking for ways to collaborate with organizations like Valley Metro to develop the workforce in the region,” said Hernandez. “So when they (Valley Metro) approached us about this partnership and helping them fill a bus driver shortage, we were on board.”

Hernandez said this is not the first time they host a bus driver training. Several years back TSTC worked in partnership with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and local transportation entities to get drivers trained and employed.

“We’ve seen great success with this type of training and we’re confident we’ll see success again,” she said. “This is what TSTC is created to do: provide our regional and state workforce and industry stakeholders with the trained workforce they need to help fill the skills gap.”

TSTC’s Professional Bus Driving Training will be hosted monthly.

Those that complete the course and pass all exams will earn a Class B license through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and can work as drivers for transit systems such as Valley Metro, Metro McAllen, Brownsville Metro and Greyhound Lines.

For more information on, or to apply for the Professional Bus Driver Training, and to learn more about the other services offered by TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education call 956-364-4503 or visit tstc.edu/workforce/ce.