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Hiring program helping Arizonans connect with new careers after pandemic

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 08:45:10-04

PHOENIX — It's a part of Joel's routine before he gets behind the wheel of a Valley Metro bus.

He's scanning sensors, making sure the bus he's going to drive is ready to maneuver down his route.

"You need to think differently when you move, when you make a turn," said Joel.

This is nothing like driving a car. In fact, it's nothing like Joel has ever done before.

He just recently started as a bus driver after leaving American Airlines during the height of the pandemic.

"In an ideal situation, it would've been nice to keep my job," said Joel. "But it didn't happen."

So, at 62 years old, Joel turned to Phoenix's Arizona@Work. It's a program helping people figure out what's the best career for them - not just a job.

"Where else do my skills transfer?" said Eddie Barojas, who helps head up the program. "What other kinds of careers have I maybe not considered. I have those skills that translate easily, I have an interest in those careers but I might be missing some sort of certification to help me get my foot in the door."

Since May of 2020, more than 6,500 people have inquired about the program.

Barojas said the pandemic has made individuals realize it's all about finding job security.

For Joel, the program helped him get his CDL so he could get this job.

"These are career jobs," said Dave Todd with Transdev Services. "I have employees that have been with us for 40 years, a lot of them. These jobs pay great."

Todd says on average, a bus driver in the Valley makes $64,000 a year. On the high end, bus drivers are making more than $100,000 plus a generous vacation plan and insurance.

Through the Arizona@Work Phoenix program, folks go through a career counseling session where they can figure out what career is the best fit with what sector is expected to grow and be sustainable.

For Joel, this was the answer and so far, it's been rewarding -- giving back in a small way.

"Because you're moving people from A to B," said Joel. "For some of them that might be the only means of transportation."