CDL Scholarships Available for Wyoming County Students
As the demand for certified truck drivers continues to grow, classes at the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center’s CDL Training Center near Dimock are filling faster. The current count of successful graduates of the 150-hour course stands at about 130 having passed the 100 graduate milestone in June 2022. Opportunities for students have grown along with enrollment, thanks to the ongoing support of companies that need new drivers to fill their own ranks due to growth in the industry and positions left open by retirees.
“We started very small with two trucks,” said Tammi Mowry, financial aid director and adult continuing education office coordinator for the SCCTC. The addition of two more big rigs, trailers of different sizes, a dump truck, and a deluxe driver trainer simulator have helped students explore a greater variety of options available to them upon completion of the course. “We’ve received an enormous amount of support from the industry,” Mowry related. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the additional equipment needed to support the program’s growth.”
Material contributions, corporate donations and even funding through the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are fueling the tremendous success of this program. Business owners and managers participate as Advisory Board members to keep school administrators abreast of changes in the industry. They also have opportunities to meet students prior to graduation at recruitment events.
“As a feeder program, SCCTC has produced more well-rounded students than any other CDL training school in the area,” said Matt Austin, president and CEO of Eastern Freight Systems and several other businesses that routinely employ truck drivers. “We are actively engaging with every class, contributing to the students’ exposure to the vast number of transportation opportunities that we are able to provide them upon graduation.”
Austin’s companies, including Holcombe Energy, have hired more than 40 drivers from the school so far. Fresh graduates are mentored for up to six months as they learn to apply their education to job-specific tasks. “We are routinely impressed with the students regulatory knowledge, which makes our continued education easier to grasp,” Austin stated.
Students learn that there is much more to operating a big rig, dump truck, or water hauler than just moving it from point A to point B. According to Bob Bennie, trucking foreman for GasSearch Drilling Services (GDS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Coterra Energy, proper loading and unloading procedures, as well as proper radio communication skills via a CB and two-way radio are equally important facets of operation that must become second nature before a new driver can strike out on their own. GDS recently hired its 14th driver from the program and, with 20 more open positions, Bennie is eager to continue filling the ranks from SCCTC.
According to Patrick Musheno, director of safety at Meshoppen Transport and subsidiary Susquehanna Gas Field Services (SGFS), the need for drivers is increasing due to a number of factors. “The current driving force is aging, and new drivers are not lining up quickly enough to fill that gap,” he remarked. “We must do what we can to interest others in a driving profession.”
SCCTC administrators are finding new ways to bring people, including veterans and high school students, into the program, and the school has also added a third instructor. Students give the CDL Center high marks too, crediting the instructors for spending ample time preparing them for testing and building their confidence.
“They basically taught me how to drive,” said Layne Koziol of Susquehanna, who graduated from the summer 2022 session. “They’re all great people there.” Koziol was immediately hired by Nelsen’s Tree Service in Binghamton, NY, where he is working his way up through the ranks to drive a Freightliner.
One initiative that has gathered steam over the past year is the opportunity for 18-year old high school students to use Coterra’s EITC funding to enter the CDL program and obtain a CDL license at no cost.
“This program is tremendously successful, and it is our fastest growing cohort at the school,” said Mowry.
Last year, Coterra’s external affairs manager Bill desRosiers challenged Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce president Gina Suydam to spread awareness by offering 10 such scholarships to Wyoming County students.
“Coterra supports Wyoming County Chamber’s workforce development efforts by allocating additional scholarships to the Susquehanna County CDL school to Wyoming County students,” desRosiers stated. “This funding is available to high school students interested in a career in driving or those who want to bolster their resume.” The scholarships are available to high school seniors and juniors who are 18 years old and interested in a CDL.
Whether you are a high school student or an adult learner, now is the time to inquire about upcoming sessions and financial aid. Class B permits can be used for driving dump trucks, water tankers and cement mixers, which can provide a steady income while the driver pursues the Class A license, which allows them to drive combination vehicles like tractor trailers.
Since June 2022, alone, the CDL school has enrolled 39 students, 12 of whom received the high school scholarship. “A lot of students are interested but don’t know how to pay for it,” Mowry related. “There are so many funding opportunities out there for tuition assistance.” Tuition assistance for adults can come from the Workforce Initiative and Opportunity Fund, Veterans Education and Training Services, and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Some companies cover all or part of the tuition for employees to complete the course, as their certification increases their flexibility and value on the job.
“In short, the SCCTC CDL program is critical to our success and has become a vital source of extremely qualified drivers,” Bennie stated.
“If not for schools like SCCTC, it would be much more difficult for trucking companies to fill their empty seats,” Musheno agreed.
Classroom seats are already filled for the first session of 2023, which starts in February. Though the start date for the next session has not yet been confirmed, Mowry is taking names of those interested. To learn more, interested readers can log on to www.scctc-school.org or call 570-278-9229.