Justin Winstead didn’t envision himself a bus operator.
But free training, a good salary and a supportive environment helped the 27-year-old Norfolk resident discover a new career with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT).
The DriveNow program, a partnership among Tidewater Community College, HRT and Norfolk Now, prepares Hampton Roads residents for a career as a bus operator with HRT.
Applications are being accepted until Oct. 18 for the next class.
Eligible participants pay nothing in earning their Commercial Driver’s License, a Virginia Career Readiness Certificate and customer service and workplace skills. The inaugural class of nine recently completed the training, which includes classes held weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
TCC’s Job Skills Training Program conducts the career development sessions that cover life skills, professional appearance enhancement, character education and business communication. Additional occupational training takes place at the downtown Norfolk HRT campus. Altogether, training lasts approximately nine weeks.
“They teach you how to be successful in life,” Winstead. “I loved the program. You learn life skills. We were like one big family learning together. We didn’t let anybody slack off or anything.”
DriveNOW training prepares students to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License learner’s permit and provides a uniform allowance and career readiness. Once hired, participants receive additional on-the-job training to earn a Class B Commercial Driver’s License. After successful completion of the program, participants are offered full-time employment with HRT as a bus operator.
A GED or high school diploma, criminal background check, drug sceening and the ability to meet the required medical criteria are part of the process.
Trainees will be paid $14.55 per hour and after graduation, will receive increases until they reach the top rate which is currently $21.26 per hour (an annual base salary of $43,243).
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