By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A group of 29 bus operators were recognized Thursday as the first to complete Metro Transit’s Bus Driver Apprentice Program.

The program allows new drivers to get paid while attending group class sessions and getting one on one support from veteran drivers. “I’m really excited,” said Anthony Yates, a graduate who was paired with a mentor in 2018.

Yates says having this support helped him better handle a variety of people and difficult situations. “You just talk to your mentor because they already went through it so they give you advice,” he said.

Metro Transit officials say they are currently operating at six percent below what they need for bus operators; about 90 people less than they currently employ. In the past, a driver shortage has affected wait times and even led to bus cancellations.

“Right now we have about 1,450 bus operators and we need to fill up our ranks in order to ensure we’re providing that consistent service,” Metro Transit Deputy Chief Operating Officer Brain Funk said.

Graduates like Yates say the program gave them confidence and excitement to start their new job.

Metro Transit currently has close to 150 additional mentees going through the program.

Pay for bus operators starts at $20.44 an hour. Metro Transit will be hosting a one-day hiring event on Jan. 11. More details will be announced next week.

Kate Raddatz