Workforce training program addresses trucker shortage
(Photo Credit: John Guenther)
Another school year is in the books. That means California has a new set of graduates—many of whom, if they haven't already, are trying to find a job and contribute to the California economy. One class of graduates, from Long Beach City College (LBCC), already has their future mapped out thanks to a specialized workforce training program.
LBCC partnered with the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA) to offer a curriculum that addressed the shortage of licensed, short-haul truck drivers qualified to transport goods in and out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
"I feel we are well prepared and much more well rounded than your average graduate that just goes to a trucking school for a couple of weeks. We learned so much more...we have a much more broader experience of information and abilities we can offer to various employers," said Steve Goodwin, LBCC truck graduate.
This one-of-a-kind program allows students to interact with truck driver employees in the classrooms, while supporting the local industry to attract and retain licensed drivers.
"When we first started, we were in a classroom environment and we learned the basics-the ins and outs of the trucking industry. We also studied entrepreneurship for becoming independent operators. We also studied green trucking-clean fuels. We also had a safety course as well as job preparation courses. We also had behind-the-wheel training for our California commercial driver's license," said Goodwin.
The Commercial Driver Training program also takes care of one of the biggest barriers to hiring a new driver: insurance.
"We've reduced that barrier by working with an excellent insurance broker that's gone to the underwriters and have gotten these drivers approved no matter what company policy we're working with—this allows us to bring them on right away," said Fred Johring, Chairman of the Harbor Trucking Association.
LBCC aggressively competed for a grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office to fund the truck program. It received $440,000 for two years. It's part of the college's focus on training people in five key regional industries.
"We strategically focus on advanced transportation, logistics, alternative fuel, green technology, healthcare, business development and homeland security. For us, when we go after resources, we go after resources to fund training that will drive our economy," said Lou Anne Bynum, Executive Vice President of the College of Advancement and Economic Development at LBCC.
This particular program aims to bridge the gap in the number of trucking jobs available now with licensed drivers.
"One member who has 150 trucks says he could hire 20 people immediately. Another that has 160 trucks has no problem hiring about 15. So it's across the board and it's a large number. It approaches 10 percent when you look company by company," said Johring.
Strengthening their efforts, LBCC just got word it received another grant from the Department of Transportation. The college will be doing the same things with this grant but targeting veterans in the region.
"L.A.'s got about 340,000 vets that have come home the last few years and we expect another 125,000 the next two to three years and they have an unemployment rate of about 18 percent versus the county, at about 10.5 percent. This is going to be our focus," said Bynum.
Bynum said the Port of Long Beach is the second busiest container port in the nation, which saw a dramatic increase in cargo earlier this year. The demand for licensed drivers is only going to go up.
"Effective today, the feds have changed some of the hours of service that require a shorter day and a shorter week, it will affect the number of available drivers, nationally, so the demand will go up. Transportation is such a driver of employment in Southern California. I see no end to the amount of work that will be available to them [at the ports]," said Johring.
"With both grants, together we will train anywhere from 200-250 people and hope to get placement rates anywhere between 70 to 75 percent. One hundred and fifty to 200 people will be placed in jobs, some may start their own businesses too," said Bynum.
That's the reason why Goodwin enrolled in the program—to land a job immediately. "I have spoken with several different employers that are eager to hire new employees," said Goodwin.
"For us at LBCC, sustainability is critical. We want to build a capacity at the college to be the best possible training provider that we can with the best possible profiling of the workplace skills that are needed by industries. Sustainability also is aligned with those businesses. We want them to be able to hire more drivers and grow their businesses to be able to increase revenues to buy clean trucks. We are in this for the long haul," said Bynum.