Article | October 2, 2023
Prioritizing Workers in the Transition to Electric School Buses

How can you contribute to an equitable workforce transition?

Text reads: Centering workers in the electric school bus transition. A worker in a hardhat is shown with electrical equipment and an electric school bus.

Technological transitions impact workers, but impacts are not equally distributed. The transition to electric school buses has job retention and training implications for diesel school bus mechanics, drivers and manufacturing workers. Meanwhile, electric vehicle supply equipment installation could be a major growth area for electrical workers.

Manufacturing jobs have historically excluded women, people of color, people with disabilities and people who were formerly incarcerated. As the industry changes, historic inequalities will impact who has the opportunity to work and what conditions they work in. While inclusion for women and people of color has increased over time, they continue to hold fewer leadership positions and receive lower wages. In recent years, automotive manufacturing job quality has also fallen as companies pursue anti-union and low-wage strategies.  

As for jobs in the school bus operation sector, the U.S. faces school bus driver and maintenance technician shortages. While transitioning to electric school buses could incentivize new workers, there’s not currently a fully-defined training pathway to electric school buses for workers whose experience has primarily been in internal combustion systems.

As the industry transitions, businesses across the electric school bus value chain have the opportunity to change these patterns by improving job quality and prioritizing an equitable transition.  

How Electric School Buses Can Improve Work 

Electric vehicle (EV) jobs will provide health benefits to bus drivers and maintenance workers who are currently exposed to harmful diesel fumes and substances like motor oil. While workers will need training and reskilling, the health benefits should help make these investments worthwhile. 

Electric school buses also offer the chance to create thousands of meaningful, well-paying jobs in the U.S. and provides opportunities to address income inequality and include the workers that have historically been left out, especially in the manufacturing sector. 

For the transition to electric school buses to be equitable, it’s vital that communities that have been historically disadvantaged be recruited and trained for well-paying electric school bus jobs with adequate benefits, protections and accessible working conditions. Successful training programs for electric school buses will equip workers for the EV future.

How You Can Help 

Policymakers: Support high quality career pathways for electric school bus workers in communities that have been historically underserved. 

  • Provide funding and support for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, paid on-the-job training, organized labor, regional economic centers, adequate training in safety and EVs, workplace accommodations and job opportunities and pipelines that prioritize communities that have been historically underserved. 
  • Prioritize making training content publicly available. 

Manufacturers: Invest in full-time roles, family-sustaining wages, proper safety equipment and protocols, scalable training programs that prioritize local communities and underserved populations. 

  • Make existing training content and programs open source and publicly available to democratize EV training
  • Work with community colleges and other organizations to develop components like online resources, hands-on practice and regional training centers.

Community colleges and technical schools: Plan for the electric transition by supplementing current diesel and gasoline programs with hybrid and electric courses or certifications. 

  • Partner with other nearby community colleges and national coalitions to source EV training content. 
  • Pursue funding from local and national agencies and work with nearby school districts and dealers receiving an ESB. 

School districts: Invest in electric school buses and EV training as a worker retention tool

  • Build workforce training into orders with dealers and manufacturers. 
  • Seek local community college and technical programs to help train school bus staff. 
  • Consider a train-the-trainer approach where a highly experienced staff member can lead internal training on a continual basis. 
  • Inspire middle and high school students to explore careers in EVs. 

Utilities: Assist districts with training workers on charging infrastructure and providing accessible charging infrastructure. 

  • Work with manufacturers, community colleges or other local training programs to get school district staff trained on new equipment. 
  • Look into accessibility standards outlined by the U.S. Access Board related to charging infrastructure to offer ease for drivers/operators—e.g. all EV chargers should have accessible communication features such as tactilely discernible features, speech output or audio descriptions.

Workers and advocates: Advocate for adequate training and safety equipment in your workplace and other needs for job safety and quality. 

  • Consider different training options such as attending a national accreditation or finding a formal certificate program for electric vehicle skills.
  • Talk to manufacturers about community benefits agreements or talk to your local union and colleagues about community needs. 
  • Learn from other worker’s stories

Where Can You Learn More About Reskilling the Workforce

Available Training Programs 

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