Gillette College will soon be able to lend a hand local organizations looking for commercially licensed drivers amid state and national shortages. With nearly $2 million in combined state and local funds on its way, the foundation will build the commercial driver’s license program, with a director appointed to expand education based on community benefit.
This week, college officials got word that they will receive $1,235,000 from the state as part of the Wyoming Partnership for Innovation. Another $600,000 has been appropriated for the upcoming CDL program by the Cooperative Higher Education Services Council.
The $1.2 million earmarked for the college was part of $26 million in funding earmarked for Governor Mark Gordon for the second phase of the statewide partnership. Phase two focuses on beginning workforce programming and partner collaboration across Wyoming.
The funds will grow partnerships between the college and the community where the CDL program begins, which is used in conjunction with high schools and local organizations. The funds also fund the appointment of a CDL and Workforce Coordinator and Director of Community Development.
The principal will take charge of rolling out more industry-specific trainings and community education efforts, said Travis Grubb, dean of the College of Career and Technical Education. These drills can include hydraulic drills, rigging, jacks, or electrical work.
said Barry Spriggs, the college’s vice president of student affairs and academics.
Because community education and trainings are not based on credits like typical college courses, the principal will not need state approval to begin.
“Because this is all no credit, it frees us up, so we don’t have to wait for state approval to get started,” Grubb said. “Sometimes the process of getting approval through the state is a long process.”
He said that the competency of certificates or training is something that the local industries were looking for. They want trained, skilled workers but aren’t necessarily looking for degrees, though Grubb said that’s often an added bonus.
The launch of the CDL program will meet a need Grubb said he’s been hearing from industry partners. He added that secondary schools were also keen on the program and would prove to be productive partners.
“Usually, depending on skill levels, the program will run between four to six weeks,” Grubb said. “We will work with high schools to set a schedule.”
Up to six students will be able to join a group, but because the program runs for a short period of time, another group can start after just six weeks. Grubb said he contacted the competition, the Mountain West Commercial Driving School, to see if they thought there was enough need for another driving school in the city.
“They said there was a three-month wait to join their programme,” he said.
The goal is for the first batch of CDL students to be operational in the spring of 2024. That date could move depending on how fast the hiring process goes, but Grubb said it will take some time to start a college trucking company.
To receive IPA funding, part of the application must show that the program was sustainable because funds from the state only cover the first year of costs. The nice thing, Grubb said, is that the equipment—two trucks, trailers, and a simulator—is a one-time cost. The courses will not need a fleet of instructors, but rather some part-time faculty or industry professionals who come to teach when the program is in session.
“Essentially, the nice thing about CDL workforce programs is that they generate revenue,” Grubb said. “The revenue should cover the cost of those expenses.”
The hope is, Spriggs said, that the CDL program will be self-sufficient within a year, as the school works to fill the prevailing need. Having all courses and community interest classes on campus will help the college achieve another of its goals as well.
Spriggs said, “The key is that this will be another way to get people on our campus.” “For us to start building those ladders into our programs, but first, you have to give them something to care about.”