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Ivy Tech helps meet truck driver demand

October 22nd, 2018

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

The Fort Wayne campus of Ivy Tech Community College has relaunched its commercial driver’s license training program and is preparing a new program to help meet a growing demand among northeast Indiana’s employers for truck drivers.

The relaunched program consisting of behind-the-wheel training, extensive one-on-one education and comprehensive classroom instruction on truck driving is being offered in partnership with the Center for Transportation Safety, a Denver-based driver safety training company.

Ivy Tech relaunched the program in mid-September after its administrators “took time to research a better way to offer this much-needed training,” Andrew Welch, Ivy Tech’s executive director of marketing and communications, said in an email.

“CDL is one of the top jobs in the area and State of Indiana, so we are pleased to be collaborating with CTS to provide better on-demand training with rolling starts throughout the year.”

The program takes place at Public Safety Academy: Ivy Tech South Campus at 7602 Patriot Crossing in Fort Wayne. The full-time course is an intensive three-week program. It takes place on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Students can enroll on either full-time or part-time bases.

Students can choose the part-time option consisting of weekday afternoon or evening classes for six weeks. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles limits CDL training classes to four students per instructor.

The cost of the program is $4,950 and it is not among Ivy Tech’s offerings that qualify for federal financial aid programs designed to assist with college education expenses. Financial assistance for the program may be available on a case-by-case basis from WorkOne Northeast career centers in the region.

CDL training also has been embedded in a new academic program pending approval at the college. Called CDL-Plus, it could broaden student options in the future, said Michelle Hagan-Short, department chair for Ivy Tech’s Supply Chain Management program.

Students who complete it “could drive but would also have a logistics class, so if they would want to continue on with a degree they would be moving on in that direction,” she said. “Once that program is approved, students can use financial aid to earn that degree.”

Ivy Tech also offers a program leading to industry-recognized certification in supply chain management, which students can earn by completing 21 credit hours of classes, Hagan-Short said. Tuition at the college costs $140.61 per credit hour.

All classes required for the certificate also would be required for an associate of science in supply chain management degree, which a student could earn by completing the 60 credit hour program for it, she said.

In the supply chain management program, students learn to understand and analyze the movement and storage of materials, work-in-process inventory, and finished goods.

Having a CDL and truck driving experience could be very helpful for the development of logistics and supply chain management careers “just to have an understanding of the process,” Hagan-Short said.

And a good truck driver with a CDL will find plenty of job opportunities in the region.

“I get calls daily from companies that need truck drivers,” she said.

During the state’s fiscal year that ended June 30, there were more ads posted online to fill heavy truck and tractor-trailer driver positions than any other northeast Indiana occupation, according to Burning Glass International, a Boston-based provider of labor market trend data.

EMSI, which is known for its economic modeling research, projects the region will need to hire more than 7,900 truck drivers during the next decade to fill newly created positions and to offset the impact of attrition, including retirements, said Rick Farrant, communications director for Northeast Indiana Works.

Northeast Indiana Works averaged a hiring event a day during the state’s most recent fiscal year, and “a number of these hiring events were for truck driving companies,” he said.

Truck driving “has pretty consistently been in the top two or three ‘in-demand’ occupations in Indiana for the last two or three years,” he said.

Newly created truck driving jobs will result in the region from a strengthening of the national economy partly because northeast Indiana has a lot of distribution centers and a disproportionate amount of manufacturing.

On a Hoosier Hot Jobs listing of the 50 fastest-growing, high-wage jobs, published by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers ranked third among occupations on the list for northeast Indiana, with a projected need to fill close to 6,200 jobs by 2022.

Data from the department shows close to 1,400 truck driver positions are open in the region now, and Welch said the average wage statewide is $38,017.

Welch and Hagan-Short do not expect disruptive technology developments to change the region’s outlook for truck driver hiring anytime soon, they said.

“We don’t foresee automated trucks being a solution in the near future to the current demand in this particular workforce,” Welch said. “Ivy Tech has developed this partnership to better immediately impact the need for workers in this in-demand, high-wage field.”

Classes for the relaunched CDL training program were scheduled to start every three weeks, and the most recent cohort of students began on Oct. 8. For more information on the program, including class availability, contact Tina Zint at tzint@drivingdynamics.com.