During a recent forum focusing on the region’s workforce, Southern Ag Carriers President Hugh Nall lamented that finding qualified CDL drivers was a difficult task for the company.
“We need at least 25 drivers right now,” Nall said.
Nall’s problem is not unique to the trucking industry. On May 17, Technical College President Anthony Parker might have provided a solution to the haulers’ problems, unveiling the Albany Technical College Transportation Academy.
The new initiative is an innovative workforce development program to be housed at the Albany, Ga., college. The academy is designed to create a pool of trained, qualified employees — drivers and diesel technicians — to support the transportation industry and those industries that rely on efficient and cost-effective systems to move goods and services across the region.
“Commercial truck drivers and diesel technicians are in high demand in our region and indeed across the country,” Parker said. “The Transportation Academy has great potential to address and solve a twofold workforce need. By refocusing our efforts on career training in these strategic areas, we will present a path forward to those who reside in our community who are looking for a job that pays well and offers health benefits.
“With these jobs, a person can support themselves and their families and build a great future. The benefit to the community is that Transportation Academy graduates will provide local industries with a qualified and trained pool of talent. This will ensure a robust system in our community to move the goods made here to market in a cost-effective, competitive manner.”
Parker added that transportation carriers in the southwest Georgia region will see an upswing in certified drivers coming out of the Transportation Academy. The new initiative also will refocus the Albany Tech’s efforts to train and graduate more certified diesel technology mechanics.
Parker said students can successfully complete the commercial truck driving program, consisting of nine credit hours, in eight weeks. The diesel equipment diploma program can be completed in 12 to 18 months, or four academic terms. For both programs, classes are offered during day and evening hours throughout the week.
The Transportation Academy is a collaborative effort of several key entities in the transportation and manufacturing industries. One of the community leaders involved in the launch of the program was Werhner Washington, plant manager of the Procter & Gamble plant in Albany.
Washington and Parker reached out to other industries and to area transportation carriers to seek input for the initiative. Project collaborators include Raven Transport, Schneider, Benny Whitehead, Southern Ag Carriers, Werner Enterprises, TMC Transportation, Roehl Transport, Knight Transportation and U.S. Xpress.
Schneider ranks No. 6, Werner No. 16, TMC No. 73, Roehl No. 76, Knight No. 30 and U.S. Xpress No. 21 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest North American for-hire carriers.
“With these great partners at the table and with the high demand for CDL drivers and diesel technicians, graduates are likely to find employment immediately after they complete the training,” Parker said. “That will be a win-win for our community.”
Parker reiterated that the academy will prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the transportation industry and/or entrepreneurial opportunities through innovative and hands-on instructional approaches. The result will be a sustainable workforce and a timely delivery system for talent and goods, resulting in economic growth for the region, he said.
The ceremony included Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Dougherty County Commission Chair Christopher Cohilas, Albany Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Justin Strickland and Technical College System of Georgia Assistant Commissioner for Workforce Development Joe Dan Banker.
At the end of the ceremony, Washington presented a $10,000 check to Parker from P&G to be used for transportation academy scholarships. Also, Albany Tech officials announced at the rollout that for eligible Georgia residents, the HOPE Grant and HOPE Career Grant will pay full tuition for Transportation Academy programs.
Some of the admission requirements to the program include that students must be at least 18 years old, have a valid Georgia driver’s license, complete the application for admission and meet required test scores or provide official college transcripts.
A high school diploma or GED is not required for admission to the commercial truck driving program. Requirements include a motor vehicle driving report including the past seven years that does not have more than eight points or four moving violations, no DUI offenses in the past three years and a Department of Transportation physical exam and drug test.