By George Stark
Over the past few months, our supply chain has been put to the test due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s faced unprecedented strain, but yet it remained strong and kept shelves across the country stocked. The driving force behind our supply chain is, without a doubt, CDL truck drivers, and recently, our nation has seen massive shortages in qualified drivers.
To help fill this driver shortage, the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center in Elk Lake School District will be opening a new CDL training program to meet the needs of the region and the country. While there may have been uncertainty surrounding opening day due to the pandemic, the school was proud to announce that classes are officially scheduled to begin on June 22, 2020. Students will complete 105 hours of classroom instruction and 42 hours of range/road driving training in preparation for the final exam.
Students from Bradford, Susquehanna, Wyoming, and Lackawanna counties in Pennsylvania, as well as from New York’s southern tier, showed much interest in the program. The classes are capped at 12 students, and the first session has already hit capacity. To accommodate students who want to complete the program as quickly as possible, five-week full-day sessions will be available. The U.S. Department of Transportation sets the curriculum for SCCTC’s extensive new CDL program.
During the groundbreaking ceremony of the CDL school last year, Elk Lake School District/SCCTC superintendent Dr. Ken Cuomo said, “This program would have been impossible if not for the investments of local businesses whose financial contributions alleviated any burdens on taxpayers.” Companies like Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, Susquehanna Gas Field Services, Diaz Companies and RHL Companies donated in-kind engineering services, earth moving equipment, pavement, and even the modular building that will serve as the classroom. In addition to the building, these partners also constructed a paved 300-by-100-foot driving range allowing for hands-on experience at a controlled location.
George Stark, director, external affairs for Cabot, recalls meeting with SCCTC executive director Dr. Alice Davis a few years ago to discuss the potential of a CDL school and where to locate it. Highlighting how SCCTC is already the leader among career tech centers in the region, providing courses and certification in fields as diverse as welding and culinary arts, nursing, and automotive repair, Stark remarked, “It really didn’t make sense to build it anywhere else.”
PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr was in attendance for the school’s groundbreaking last year. “This is a positive for Pennsylvania. Our strength is energy at the moment,” Barr told those in attendance. “We have people without jobs. We have jobs without people.”
Congressman Fred Keller, R-PA, toured the CDL facility earlier this year and noted that “CDL jobs are family-sustaining jobs that you can take anywhere in the country. It’s tremendous to have this great asset right here in Susquehanna County, given that there are so many jobs available in the truck driving industry.”
After his tour, Keller stated, “The fact that the school has the vision to be looking forward, putting in place an area where they can increase the size of the testing platform as well as provide in-classroom work with a simulator and other instruction, I think they’ve done a great job of laying a good foundation for this program.” The simulator, which was donated by Cabot Oil & Gas, gives students the hands-on training they need before ever stepping foot inside a truck. It’s also a valuable tool in helping those interested in the program decide if it’s the right path for them before registering for the program.
Speaking to the Congressman during the tour and at the subsequent roundtable discussion on rural career and technical education, Dr. Davis detailed how important it is that “we train students for jobs that industries actually need,” emphasizing that the earning potential for certified drivers can top $70,000. That is life-changing in rural communities, especially when “the local papers are full every week with want ads for drivers, and employers are already calling and asking when we will have drivers ready.”
For more information about the new CDL driver training facility in Susquehanna County, interested readers can view the SCCTC Course Catalog or call the school directly at 570-278-9229.
George Stark is director of external affairs for Cabot Oil & Gas.
Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.