The No. 1 job needed in the area is truck driving.
That’s what Janese Thatcher, Columbia Basin College’s dean for Computer Science, Engineering and Technical Programs, said she recently learned when looking at the top jobs that companies were hiring for in Benton and Franklin counties.
“People running many companies in this area said their greatest need is truck drivers. That’s because the current work force is aging,” Thatcher said.
That’s why CBC has invested in a $111,000 full motion truck simulator to help with the training. Columbia Distributing’s Kennewick branch kicked in $10,000 toward the purchase.
“There is a huge need for this kind of investment,” said Columbia Distributing’s Kent Nelson, a general manager with the company who presented CBC with the check on Jan. 26.
CBC and Columbia Distributing also are working to create recruitment, training and professional development opportunities for students. That includes holding classes on-site at Columbia Distributing to engage in real-world distributor operations.
The college’s Commercial Driver’s License certification program ended in 2009, but was revived last fall.
“We have eight students in our night class, and in the day class we have 10,” Thatcher said. “Right now, we can have as many as 12 students in each class. Night class is a great option. It’s 22 weeks for people who have full-time jobs. The cost of getting a CDL is $3,500. That includes the permits and the tests.”
Program instructor Bud Stephens says the school has access to two semi-trucks.
But students will be able to get more seat time with the new simulator.