Online courses help women and adult learners land trucking jobs in Alabama

ByMike V. Cooper

Jul 22, 2022

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After tailoring courses with the state trucking association, Alabama educators are reaching a different demographic of students who are now training and entering the trucking industry.

A Diesel by Distance online project at Wallace State Community College is completing its first full year after launching last summer to train diesel technicians.

Students can take an on-campus course or the online one containing the theoretical part (plus virtual reality headsets to practice different tasks in preparation for coming to the lab.)

Beard

“We actually have more adult learners and women in this program than ever before,” said Anna Beard, program coordinator at Wallace State’s Center for Career & Workforce Development. “We were able to reach a new demographic, an older audience looking for a career change. They come to us because we have this flexibility and they are able to pursue something while working full time.

This spring 2022 semester, a total of 57 students (six women and six adult learners) were enrolled compared to 26 students in spring 2021, no women and one adult learner.

“Jobs are in high demand with a huge shortage of technicians. If students want to work while they are in school, they have a job. It’s easy to find a job right now. Most companies here start a new technician at $18 to $20 an hour, and that goes up as they complete skills and certifications,” Beard said.

Mara Harrison

Harrisson

Mara Harrison, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Education and Workforce Transformation at the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), worked closely with the Alabama Trucking Association to create an educational platform online with short video tutorials for commercial driving licenses.

Students can take online course sections as often as needed but must pass 80% to progress. Completion averages 15 hours for the theory portion, with in-person training behind the wheel, Harrison said.

Before online training began in March, on-campus teaching took eight to 10 weeks, excluding most full-time workers. Many women also sign up.

RELATED: Workforce Initiatives Lead to More Alabama Trucking Jobs

“It opens [CDL training] to people who are really great employees, but had no way of getting the training because it was supposed to take too long. Now that’s not a problem anymore,” Harrison said. “We’re getting great results out of it.”

Image of an online CDL course

Image of an online CDL course. (Alabama Community College System)

Most students take the online CDL course from 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., which indicates that they are employed full-time but want to change careers or get a better salary, she added. . So far, 200 people have completed the training and found employment.

Also acting director of the ACCS Innovation Center, which is creating a program to fill in-demand jobs, Harrison meets with the Alabama Truck Association and trucking company executives to find out what they think needs to be taught in the CDL courses in addition to federal requirements.

“They helped perfect it and make it feel very Alabama. Curriculum development is just as important as curriculum delivery,” she said. “Partnership is the only way to win.”

Trucking companies and their employees were also featured in the learning videos.

Road signs

There are several reasons for the continued labor shortage in trucking. We recap the discussions from the first half of this year in this “rotating” episode. Log in above or by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

“It’s very personal. We tried to focus on people who are familiar to us,” Harrison said. “These are people who really have these jobs. These are trucks whose name you will recognize because they exist in Alabama, and that’s a bit of pride in them.

“We can offer the training free of charge to participants until the funds are exhausted. These are labor jobs that make a state work or not. We sort of pre-screen for a job because we want to put the money to good use, so we wouldn’t want to train someone who wouldn’t qualify for a job.

Interested persons can complete an ACCS form online (https://innovation.accs.edu/) before being directed to their local community college for CDL training. Then the community college, which has hiring requirements from area trucking companies, works with students and businesses to match applicants with available jobs.

Trucking companies are encouraged to hire students from the program to ensure its success.

“The biggest outcome is jobs and that’s good for everyone,” Harrison said.

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