Mr Naz said the “key takeaway” of working with older, long-time drivers at SMRT was seeing how the industry has progressed since years back.
“Bus drivers were being paid below ‘minimum wage’ back then, and knowing how times have changed for the better for most of us, it definitely shows that the industry has come a long way,” he said.
“There are many more opportunities that a bus captain can do, and it’s not just a standard blue-collar job as what has been described by many.”
Public transport operator Tower Transit said it has seen a 64 per cent increase in the number of bus drivers below 30 years old joining the company since the first quarter of this year, although only slightly over 2 per cent of its drivers fall in this age bracket.
“The challenge is that people don’t typically aspire to become a bus captain until they start driving and realise that it can be a fulfilling career, that they are respected and that there are career progression opportunities,” said Mr Winston Toh, managing director of Tower Transit Singapore.
Mr Toh, highlighting a perception that all drivers do is drive, said the job has evolved into a “multi-faceted role” that involves interacting with hundreds of people daily.
“It is as much a customer service job as a driving one, and because road conditions and human interactions are so dynamic, no two days are the same,” he added.
“Many of our younger bus captains enjoy that dynamism and a few have even moved into supervisory and managerial roles.”
Mrs Wu of SBS Transit said the operator has introduced a progressive wage model and career progression paths for its bus captains. For instance, “good performers” can be promoted to senior bus captains and then chief bus captains.
Drivers can also opt for a management track with non-driving roles, which include executive and managerial roles in bus interchange and depot operations and management, bus operations control centres and training.
“In recent years, we have also introduced new work schemes such as part-time and five-day work week to make it more attractive for job applicants to consider joining the profession,” she said.