Officials at SUNY Canton have responded to a need in the job market by offering a program to put more truck drivers on the roadways.
The school is developing a seven-week course that will certify individuals for Class A commercial driver’s licenses. The fee is $5,750 is less expensive than similar programs offered in other parts of the state, said Arthur Garno, director of SUNY Canton’s Career Ready Education and Success Training Center. The program may begin this summer.
No more than eight people will be enrolled for the SUNY Canton program at a time. Brian Harrigan, operator of the former AIM High Driving School in Potsdam, will serve as instructor.
“About 40 to 45 people are on a waiting list for the program. It was developed after local companies relayed to county Industrial Development Agency officials their struggle finding enough truck drivers,” according to a story published Tuesday by the Watertown Daily Times. “The non-credit program includes 20 hours of classroom instruction and 30 hours behind the wheel driving time. Pepsi Co. has donated a trailer and the next step is to secure a truck to rent or lease. A Class A license allows people to drive tractor-trailers and truck-trailers and any vehicles allowed with a Class B license such as a single-unit truck or bus.
“The local shortage reflects a national problem,” the article reported. “Earlier this year, the American Trucking Association estimated that nationwide, companies need about 60,000 drivers and the number is growing. Thomas Plastino, executive director of the county’s Workforce Development Board, said the shortage was the focus of roundtable discussions held with some manufacturers and local companies.”
Mr. Garno said SUNY Canton is looking for a partner to lease the school a truck to use for the program. This is a great opportunity for a company with a stake in filling these vacancies to step up and help out the university. To ensure the program is properly equipped for the future, the St. Lawrence County IDA will seek grant funding from the Northern Border Commission to buy a tractor-trailer for SUNY Canton.
The closest site for people from the north country to obtain a Class A commercial driver’s license from is in Syracuse. It’s one thing for residents of Southern Jefferson County or Oswego County to travel there. But this is a much longer haul for individuals in St. Lawrence County, so having a program at SUNY Canton will help them tremendously.
“The difficulty is getting people trained,” IDA Executive Director Patrick J. Kelly said in the story. “We realized we needed to find a local solution. … This is a really great example of the local Workforce Development and an educational institution solving a regional problem.”
Mr. Plastino said that the state Department of Labor had listed numerous jobs for commercial truck drivers. He added that some companies stopped posting their vacancies because they couldn’t fill them.
“The work is not easy, but these are good-paying jobs,” Mr. Garno said in the article, adding that pay for truck drivers begins at about $50,000. “I like to put programs together that connect people to employment. There’s a huge need and a number of people who need employment.”
SUNY Canton is rising to the occasion with this program. By working with local organizations such as the county Workforce Development to help fill this need, it’s serving its appropriate role as a true community resource. Call the school’s Career Ready Education and Success Training Center at 315-386-7229 for more information.