OC Transpo is looking to hire hundreds of new operators this year for buses and the O-Train, but new statistics show only a small number of applicants are advancing to the training portion of the recruitment program.

A staffing shortage resulted in hundreds of bus trip cancellations on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, and the transit service warns more trip cancellations are possible next week.

OC Transpo has set a goal of hiring up to 300 new operators this year to meet current needs and prepare for future requirements, including the launch of Stage 2 of the light rail transit project. The new hires include 80 bus drivers to meet Canada Labour Code requirements for 30-minute breaks and 84 operators to cover retirements and attrition.

Earlier this year, OC Transpo launched a "robust recruitment campaign," according to OC Transpo general manager Renee Amilcar.

"We have seen a strong interest in our recruitment efforts to date. We have thorough and stringent processes in place to ensure we hire the best candidates for this safety-critical position."

In a memo to council and the media on Friday, Amilcar said OC Transpo has received applications from 2,833 applicants since the start of the year. However, only six per cent of the applicants have advanced to the training portion of the recruitment program.

There are 10 stages in the recruitment process, with offers of employment offered after an applicant completes all 10 steps. Here is a look at the Bus Operator Recruitment data from OC Transpo.

  • Number of applicants: 2,833
  • Qualified applicants screened in: 1,811
  • Number of applicants passed online assessment: 1,045
  • Number of applicants passed written assessments: 575
  • Number of applicants passed interview: 304
  • Number of applicants passed driving assessment: 197
  • Number of applicants passed reference checks/document submission: 176 (Applicants who moved into the training portion of the program)

The statistics show that 34 of the applicants left the training portion of the program.

"To date, we have already hired 58 new bus operators who started earlier this spring and summer. Customers can expect service reliability to increase mid-August, when a group of 32 new bus operator trainees graduate," Amilcar said.

"We are continuing our recruitment and training sessions this fall, and additional new operators will begin in early October."

The "Drive with Us" recruitment campaign says bus operators receive excellent benefits for themselves and their families, flexible work options and a comprehensive pension plan. Bus operator positions are full-time permanent positions, with a full-time wage rate after 24 months of service of $33.086 an hour.

According to the OC Transpo bus operator job posting, bus operators work an average of 40 hours per week, with seven and a half hour shifts.

Amilcar says OC Transpo is making "every effort to improve service reliability for the balance of August and to prepare for September."

The head of the transit service acknowledges Ottawa and Canada are facing a labour shortage, "and we are doing everything we can to increase our staffing compliment."