When the latest class of VTA bus operators graduated from their 9-week training program, Eric Shaunce was keenly aware of one irony. The bus he used to seek shelter on when he was homeless and addicted to drugs is now the bus he proudly drives…in his 15th year of sobriety.
“I used to ride the 22 all day so I could stay dry when I was in my addiction,” said Shaunce, just before his graduation as a VTA Bus Operator. “Last Friday I got to drive the 22. I have a little bit more compassion…for the less fortunate because I used to be that person.”
"Used to", being the operative words. October 9th was the 15th anniversary of the day he says he “made a choice to get clean.” Eric has had a few different jobs since then, mostly with drug rehab organizations, trying to help others follow in his footsteps to successful sobriety. But he says he came to VTA for a “career.”
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to work for VTA. I shared with the students in class that they needed to study and do whatever it took to pass the test and complete this course, so they could have a career and not have 500 jobs like I did in my lifetime.”
Eric is one of 27 new operators about to take to the streets, helping VTA fill a critical shortage of operators over the past 2 years. With a national labor shortage taking shape since the start of the COVID pandemic, VTA is not alone in looking for more people to hire. Transit service affected during the height of the pandemic is building back little by little, but service frequencies will not back to normal until enough operators can be hired to fill close to 70 vacancies.
In keeping with an agency goal to hire more women in non-traditional jobs, 12 women joined the agency as bus operators in the past two trainee graduating classes.
Bus operator is an entry level position with a starting salary of $42,000, no prior experience necessary, training is provided, with an opportunity to earn up to $70,000 after four years. VTA also offers generous benefit packages, as operators are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 265. As part of VTA training programs, operators are paired with mentors through the Joint Workforce Investment program, a collaboration between ATU and VTA, which helps new employees successfully navigate the job and helps provide upward mobility within the agency.
Anyone interested in applying at VTA can find an application here.