Greene County high school students will have the opportunity next school year to get their commercial driver’s license.
In partnership with Penn Commercial, the Greene County Career and Technology Center will have a CDL course beginning in the fall.
“This is something the joint operating committee and superintendents have wanted for a long time,” said Mark Krupa, director of the CTC.
Jefferson-Morgan Superintendent Joseph Orr said the majority of the funding for the class is coming from Southwest Training Services Inc. The first part of the course will be a class focused on safety certifications for OSHA and SafeLandUSA that pertain to the oil and gas industry. The second part will be the CDL training.
“There’s a shortage in our area for CDL operators,” Orr said. “There’s no reason kids can’t be a part of that training while in high school.”
Orr said that 18-year-olds can get a CDL but aren’t allowed to cross state lines until they’re 21. He said having a CDL upon graduation will make his students more employable.
“For a kid that doesn’t have plans to go on to higher education, or isn’t currently learning a vocational trade or going into the military, this really hits that percentage of students that was planning on going straight into the workforce,” Orr said. “Right away you become employable at a sustainable wage, and you can stay in the region.”
Carmichaels Superintendent Fred Morecraft agreed that the program is perfect for students who are undecided about what path to choose after high school. He said his district has been working to develop a “five-year vision” on how to transition students from school to careers.
“Our ideal is for all of our kids to have jobs when they walk across our stage,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs out there for them that can pay a living wage without a college degree. We need to give these kids opportunities because we want them to stay here.”
The Greene County commissioners have agreed to allow the CTC to use the county fairgrounds as a place for students to get driving hours and use practice vehicles, Orr said. They also agreed to help look for a permanent site for the program.
“We smaller districts have to rely on each other to get this stuff done,” Orr said.
Krupa agreed that because the CTC and districts share the same goals, working together makes sense for a program like this.
“When we’re working together and sharing the cost and the facility, we’re able to offer better things,” he said.
He said the CTC bases new programming on the job market and industry data. He said businesses in the community and region have reached out looking for people with CDL training and OHSA-30 certifications.
“In this area because of gas and oil there’s a need for a lot of trucks on the road,” he said. “It’s really a program that’s addressing the needs of the community and the needs of the workforce. Just from the interest we’ve gotten so far, I think it’s going to be very successful.”
Brian Jackson, West Greene superintendent, said the goal is to eventually hold CDL classes at the CTC for adult education as well, whether in the summer or after school hours.
“Greene County has more opportunities for jobs in oil and gas than any other area around,” he said. “We recognize there’s an opportunity for employment, we just need to have our kids prepped for that type of work if they choose that opportunity.”
Southeastern Greene Superintendent Rich Pekar said the initial pilot program next year will have 16 slots for students. Depending on the demand, that number could change if the program continues in following school years.
“We want to provide as many opportunities for our kids as we can,” Pekar said. “Right after graduation they’ll be able to land a job.”