DENVER, CO -
How would you like to earn $15.50 an hour working part time, with paid holidays, paid vacation, paid training and a 401-K among other benefits? You will find there are plenty of openings, and the job is yours if you qualify. At the same time, you can experience the benefit of helping out with one of the most fragile elements of our community-- our seniors.
The Front Range is now facing a critical shortage of qualified drivers, and no where is the need more significant than at area Senior Centers that transport clients to appointments that are often critical to their health and well-being.
Metro area Transportation Agencies say they too are facing enormous difficulty in recruiting new drivers. As 9News has reported in past weeks, CDOT is looking for at least 100 new staffers, RTD needs virtually that same number, and area Senior Centers say, they will train drivers who can give them just a few hours-- or a day or two a week.
9News Senior Source Correspondent Mark Koebrich actually enrolled in a driver training program to see how difficult these jobs might be. Mark became a "driver candidate" to measure the difficulty of working as a "Transport Specialist."
Mark found work in a driver program for The Senior Resource Center at 32nd and Chase in Wheat Ridge which serves hundreds of residents, most significantly, with a driver program that takes care of seniors and many children with mobility issues-- some of the most fragile members of our community. Drivers here take clients
to doctor's appointments, dental visits, grocery stores and other services such as dialysis and chemotherapy.
The problem is they can no longer find drivers. The biggest culprit is a good economy. But a huge new problem is the number of people in Colorado who use marijuana. These are federal jobs, so you must be able to pass a drug test to secure the employment, and marijuana users will find they can't pass.
Incredibly, the wash-out rate for new hires for Senior Centers is 1 in 3. CDOT has the same problem and so does RTD. The wash-out rates for potential hires for those services because of marijuana is 1-in-6.
So as a result, CDOT, RTD and the area Senior Centers, are all desperate for new staffers and simply can't find them.
What's happening as a result is that all are cutting service and turning down requests for hundreds of rides every day.
So you might wonder-- how difficult are these jobs? I found there is a level of difficulty, but it is easily conquered, and the jobs themselves are very fulfilling.
First, I had to report for a driver orientation at the Senior Resource Center's offices, a process that took about 3 hours. It covered the scope of the job, the risks and difficulties, as well as the benefits, the hours and the pay scale. There are detailed explanations of the clients involved, and the potential health and safety problems that drivers sometimes encounter.
My next step was to pass a physical and a drug test at the Midtown Occupational Health Services Center at 2490 West 26th Avenue. The staff here is top-flight. They explain every step of the procedure, especially the importance of the drug testing they do and why they take many special security steps in assuring that those test are accurate. Apparently, many applicants attempt to falsify their results. But these professionals have seen it all, and they are very watchful and follow a heavily documented testing program. But don't be intimidated. You will find them very helpful and the doctors and staff to a person are top-notch professionals.
After passing your physical and drug test, it's on to driver training. Drivers need no special license, but will need to learn how to handle a 12-passenger bus. I can assure you that if I can do it, you can do it. The training is excellent, the people are professional and very dedicated to the job, and your days on the bus visiting with your clients are completely enjoyable. Training is exhaustive, and they leave nothing to chance. You will learn everything about the bus, including how to operate the lift that boards those passengers who are not mobile. You will also learn how to navigate with the on-board tablet that will list all of your stops, as well as provide navigation to the those stops.
The Senior Centers have an acute need for quality drivers. You can work as a volunteer, or as a paid driver at $15.50 an hour. They will also pay for your training hours, and they are looking for people who can give them just a few hours a day, or who can work full time.
For full time staffers, there are 401-k's, Health Spending accounts, professional investment advice, and medical plans. Part timers can work as little as 1/2 day or 2 10 hour shifts, and earn many of the same benefits. These are not "low end" jobs.
For more information you can call DRMAC (Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council) at 303-243-3113.
Copyright 2016 KUSA