Centralia College’s Workforce Education program, in response to reports indicating job and training gaps and recommendations from advisory boards within the college, will introduce a new class next week preparing students to earn their commercial driver’s license (CDL).
The class starts July 8, with registration open all throughout this week.
“Eighty percent of the workforce degrees we offer are ones that are driven by the local economic demand,” said Jake Fay, dean of Healthcare & Industrial Trades.
Reports prepared for the Lewis County Economic Development Council by a third party show that in 2017, 27 percent of job openings in Lewis County were for truck drivers. Additionally, the local hourly wage for truck drivers was 4 percent higher than the national average.
“We get feedback all the time from local industry that we deal with, and what their needs are and what they need to see in our programs,” said Fay.
That report, coupled with a push from the school’s diesel program advisory board — a panel of people from the local business world that share what changes are needed to curriculum to continue preparing students for ever-shifting job markets and needed skills — was the driving force that encouraged the college to start up its own CDL-centric course.
Fay said workforce course curriculum is tweaked almost on an annual basis to ensure the class is up-to-date. However, it’s only once every few years that an actual class is developed in response to local workforce needs, he said.
One year ago, the college was awarded a grant from the state to begin development of the course — which Fay said should be self-sufficient upon its first semester. The money was used to develop the curriculum, buy a truck and trailer and a state-of-the-art simulator.
“I’ve spent countless hours with this simulator … and it’s pretty right on,” said one of the class’s instructors, Adam Dunn.
Dunn said the simulator comes programmed with over driving 500 scenarios, and the interface — including the dashboard, operating system and screens serving as windshields — is incredibly similar to driving a real truck.
If you shift the gear incorrectly, there’s an accurate grinding sound, and the system reacts when you slam on the brakes.
Fay said, in his talks with other schools that bought a simulator, he learned that it can cut down on maintenance costs to the truck as much as 75 percent. It also prepares students to take the wheel in a safe environment, where a mistake doesn’t have consequences.
Dunn said the class is a combination of classroom work and hands-on training. Students will have to get their CDL permit, allowing them to drive a truck with a licensed driver, and they’ll practice both in parking lots and on the road.
State law requires such courses have 160 hours of combined classroom and driving work, but Dunn said the eight-week course will take more time than that. The curriculum is developed to teach students everything that will be on the actual CDL exam. Once they pass the course, students then have 180 days to take and pass the CDL exam.
The course at Centralia College will run from July 8 to Aug. 30., 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. It costs $4,412.
Students must be 18 or older; pass a federal Department of Corrections health and drug screening; have a Washington driver’s license; have no DUI, hit and run, reckless or negligent driving infractions in the past five years; and have no more than three moving violations in the past three years.
For more information, contact Centralia College Workforce Education at 360-623-8963. Visit Centralia College Enrollment Services in TransAlta Commons to register.