Technical Colleges Seek to Expand Truck Driver Training Programs

Last updated on May 20th, 2022 at 11:31 pm

Technical colleges in southeastern Wisconsin are exploring ways to address the increasingly acute shortage of truck drivers. Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC), which started a truck driver training certificate program last year, has recently started talks with Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and Gateway Technical College to find ways to offer the program to students at all three schools.

The schools have not yet determined where the program would be offered.

“We are discussing with them about expanding the program and a potential five-year plan to expand it,” said Bill Rockwell, associate dean of transportation technology at WCTC. “What we’re trying to do is get the colleges on the same page and talk about how we can collaborate in expanding something in the southeast region.”

One complication will be the expense of operating the program, which includes the cost to buy or lease trucks and purchase diesel fuel. Also, the classes require a high ratio of teachers to students. Much of the program is taught in trucks, where only three students can sit with one teacher. This program will be very helpful for people who are hoping to land truck driver jobs in the near future.

Only three technical colleges in Wisconsin currently offer truck driving certificate programs. They are WCTC, Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) and Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC).

At MATC in Milwaukee, a city with a large number of unemployed and underemployed residents, students can learn how to fix a truck, but not how to drive one.

MATC has a diesel mechanic program and has been considering offering a truck driving certificate, said John Stipl, dean of technology at MATC. Stilp said shortages of drivers in the nation and state, as well as the continued demand for drivers, have made MATC officials consider the addition.

Stipl said the talks with Rockwell at WCTC were the first steps toward creating such a program.

“Whenever a district requests to start a program, we do an assessment through a state program,” he said. “One of the things we need to do is the assessment and look at the overall costs.”

Rockwell said he’s hoping to gather officials from WCTC, MATC, Gateway, FVTC and CVTC by the end of September to discuss the potential of a cooperative arrangement to offer the program in southeastern Wisconsin. Rockwell said he’s hoping to draw on the experiences of the Fox Valley and Chippewa Valley officials, who have more experience in running such a program.

FVTC has offered a truck driving program since 1968 and increased its capacity for classes for the 2004-05 school year by adding vehicles and instructors, said Rob Behnke, team coordinator for the FVTC truck driving program. As a result, the college saw a 33-percent increase in enrollment in the program.

“The industry has been very receptive to our students, and what I have found is that the students that come to our program leave here feeling comfortable with what they have learned,” he said. “A lot of one-on-one education and behind-the-wheel experience allows for a safer driver.”

Small Business Times reporter Elizabeth Geldermann contributed to this report.

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