McALLEN — South Texas College partnered with Metro McAllen to launch the Metro Transit Academy, which will offer students the ability to learn how to drive a bus using one donated by the city’s bus service.

The announcement was made at the STC Technology Campus on Military Highway, where STC President Ricardo Solis said the course was created to address the shortage of drivers affecting the industry at a local and national level.

“I wanted to emphasize how important (it is) what we’re doing today with our partnerships,” Solis said. “Yesterday we had a very unusual event because we were partnering with a competitor … I had a lot of people kind of raise their eyebrows when they heard about it,” he said about a partnership with Rio Grande Valley College in Pharr to provide more skilled medical professionals to the region. “But this is what it’s all about, it’s partnering with organizations, setting aside competition and working for the best of the community, our students and the economic well-being of the region.”

Solis added that STC will be announcing other, as he described it, creative and bold programs involving advanced technology, such as batteries and autonomous vehicles, and that it will all tie in together, from technology to transportation to advanced manufacturing.

McAllen and South Texas College officials celebrate an agreement to train new bus drivers for the city’s metro service. (Courtesy photo)

At Thursday’s event, McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos also teased more funds heading to other STC programs next week.

“Hopefully, with the help of our commissioners, we’re going to allocate a good sum of money to STC for the purposes of nursing,” Villalobos said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”

Mario Delgado, the Transit Director for the city of McAllen, spoke more about the driver shortage the nation’s been facing.

He said that driving agencies have been struggling to “roll out” and it has affected people who depend on public transport every day.

“As a matter of fact, we got word that there’s a likelihood that a very important national event, the Bus Roadeo, might be canceled this year because agencies don’t have drivers to send to these events,” Delgado said.

He added that these are exciting times for people looking for a rewarding career as a driver in public transportation and announced a hiring event happening next Tuesday.

The event will run from 9 a.m. until noon at the McAllen Convention Center for those looking for a career in public transit, no experience needed.

Delgado said there’s a possibility for those who attend to be offered a job on the spot along with a $2,000 signing bonus.