CDL program addresses crucial workforce shortage
Student, Seth Swanson (left), and CDL instructor, Jeremy Hitchcock, perform a pre trip inspection at BOUMA Trucking recently. Great Falls College's new CDL program is up and running and taking new applicants.
Plans for the Lifelong Learning Center at Great Falls College MSU’s CDL program are in overdrive.
A small pilot of three students began the journey to getting their commercial driver’s license in July, and an informational session for the August class fired up a lot of interest.
“We are thrilled with the response from the public,” said Tammie Hickey, director of Lifelong Learning. “Industry came to us requesting that we offer this program because of the shortage of drivers locally, statewide and nationally. We are pleased to see the workforce responding so enthusiastically as we have been fielding numerous calls about the program since its inception a few weeks ago.”
To get the program on the road, Hickey and her team developed an advisory board comprised of industry, the Department of Labor, the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, the local Teamsters Union and others to provide feedback and ensure the program meets the needs of the community.
In another piece of great news, the CDL program was awarded an American Rescue Plan grant in the amount of $388,875 by the Cascade County Board of Commissioners to offset the costs of a very expensive program to launch and operate. And 11 businesses have partnered with the college.
“We are really proud of Tammie and her team in Lifelong Learning for making this happen,” said Dr. Stephanie Erdmann, CEO/dean of Great Falls College. “The college has a long history of reacting quickly to match industry needs with trainings and academic programs to make the community stronger, and this is another great example of that. And we couldn’t do it without our industry partners.”
The grant will allow the college to purchase very costly simulators for the classroom portion of the program, as well as help out with the daily costs.
Lifelong Learning will offer CDL classes each month. There will be daytime and evening class options.
The theory portion with permit testing will take about three weeks, the behind-the-wheel portion will take anywhere from two weeks to a month.
The next class begins Aug. 15 with a deadline of Aug. 10 for application and prerequisite documents to be turned in.
The course costs $3,500, which includes books, testing fees, First Aid/CPR certification, work ethic training and job-placement assistance.
Classes are a hybrid format. There are required on-campus class days in addition to online modules that are completed outside of class.
“We are relying on our business partners to hire our students once they’ve passed their permit and provide the behind-the-wheel experience while working collaboratively to enforce safety concepts with our instructors,” Hickey said. “Once students have completed the driving portion, they meet with our instructors again for final review and skills reinforcement prior to testing for licensure” Hickey said the program is a great way for businesses to send existing employees to get their licenses as well as for those who are looking to get into the industry to make themselves marketable.
“This partnership blends education and work-based learning that allows opportunity for talent-pipeline development for current employees and job placement for those wanting to enter this high-need, high-wage industry. By working together, we can collectively address workforce shortages in our community and state.”
In addition to the monthly classes, Lifelong Learning is offering informational sessions each month, which are strongly recommended for prospective students to learn the class format, pre-requisites, application criteria and funding sources available to help them offset the cost of the training.
Upcoming informational sessions are: