Driving instruction a rewarding career
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist March 18, 2011
The best driving instructors are “people persons” who can form a rapport with their students.
Several people have asked me how to become a driving instructor. Some want part time work, others want to be full-time and still others wish to own a driving school. There are many things to consider before committing to a training course. A candidate’s driving record should be well above average. It does not have to be impeccable, but a quick check of the driver abstract, which covers the last five years of driving, will tell volumes about future opportunities. A criminal record check is mandatory. A pass on a routine physical examination will be demanded as well. Once the initial qualifications are met, the would-be instructor must enrol in a two-week driving instructor’s course. The course costs $2,000 to $3,000. The first week involves classroom theory and the second week is a more practical in car instructional exercise. These courses are offered at several accredited driving schools throughout B.C. There is an opportunity to challenge the qualifications of the instructor course. This avenue is reserved for people with lateral or superior qualifications in related teaching fields, usually requiring a post-secondary degree, or those who have let their instructor qualification lapse. Once the instructor’s course has been successfully completed and the necessary licences have been issued, the candidate is a certified driving instructor. It is best to work for someone else before going into your own business. This is not always a path followed by successful school owners, but it is largely the norm in the industry. Because the training course is void of real students, the employer will likely have to do considerable work to bring a “graduate instructor” up to a credible level of expertise. There is a big difference between teaching a fellow instructor in a mock learning situation, and a “first time behind the wheel” new driver. A reasonable time should be set aside for the novice teacher to observe an experienced instructor. There should also be time set aside for lessons, with students enrolled at the driving school. These should be supervised instructional sessions, both in-class and especially in-car. The best instructor candidates are “people persons.” They get along well with almost everyone. They instil confidence in their students, because of their own deportment and non-threatening personality. They never raise their voice or display fear. I was very fortunate to have had the best in the business teach me the instructor course. These three professional driving school owners had more than 100 years of cumulative driving school experience. At the time of my initiation into the driving school business, I never realized how much in their debt I would be in future years. The real “guts of the business” is in the teaching methods used by the driving instructor. If an instructor is constantly requested by student drivers, it is a great indication of a successful career ahead. There are all sorts of other seemingly ancillary considerations when an instructor is first getting started. Some are simple, such as the acquisition of a phone and a suitable car. Others are pivotal, such as advertising, marketing, accounting, insurance, scheduling and the like. Professional associations are a great help in gaining the advice needed to be a successful instructor or school.
Attendance at conventions, such as the Associated Driving Schools of the Americas, is a great way to keep up with the latest teaching techniques and technology. There is always a need for more qualified, well-educated driving instructors. More learning drivers take professional instruction now than in the past.
Driving tests are more difficult. Parents are more aware of the need for professional instruction. Seniors need to re-qualify on a more regular basis. There are approximately 540 driving schools and 2,300 driving instructors in B.C. If you are considering this career, plan, prepare and proceed. You will find it challenging and rewarding.
Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.
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