Lake Winola resident Kaitlyn Hug (top) was all smiles after receiving her CDL certification from SCCTC in May. Above, Leadership Wyoming classmates get a briefing on the wide range of programs available at SCCTC from (back, left) Dr. Alice Davis and (right) Tammi Mowry.
By Rick Hiduk
(Also published in Impact, the quarterly newsletter of the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce)
The Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center (SCCTC) opened a CDL Training Center in the summer of 2020 to help meet the increasing demand from local companies for certified drivers and to provide jobs with family-sustaining wages for local residents. On May 19, members of the 2021 Leadership Wyoming team toured the school after a delicious lunch prepared by students of SCCTC’s Culinary Arts program. (Leadership Wyoming is conducted by the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and just graduated its fifth class.)
SCCTC executive director Alice Davis spoke to Leadership class members during lunch about the variety of programs offered at SCCTC for 10th to 12th graders from seven area school districts, as well as adult learners. Although they only had time to tour the CDL school on this visit, Dr. Davis invited them to come back some time and see the other classrooms and the labs where hands-on instruction is provided.
Leadership member Becki Talcott of Deer Park Lumber was anxious to try out the state-of-the-art driving simulator as soon as she heard about it. Dr. Davis explained that, in addition to serving as a valuable learning tool, the simulator is also a great promotional instrument.
“We let visitors try out the simulator to see if truck driving feels right to them before they invest any more time or money,” she explained.
“The simulator was a lot of fun but, most importantly, educational,” Becki (above) said of her test run with instructor Brian Eso. “It was a very realistic experience. We had to shift, felt rumble strips, and the seat and steering wheel moved accordingly.” Becki’s son, Hunter, is going to lineman school upon graduation from Tunkhannock High School, and it was recommended that he have his CDL permit before going. He immediately enrolled at SCCTC and earned his driving certificate last Saturday.
SCCTC’s financial aid coordinator Tammi Mowry spoke of the various grants and scholarships available to eligible incoming students and of companies that have supported the driving center from the start, several offering tuition reimbursement to students who stay with them for at least two years after graduation.
Representatives of participating companies are among the Advisory Board members who help steer the program to keep up with the changing needs of the industrial world. They have donated vehicles and trailers to provide a wider range of experiences for students who may not be sure yet of where they want to take their certification.
Excellence isn’t just encouraged, Dr. Davis explained, it is expected. “If, after 40 hours of on-road driving, they are not ready to go out into the workforce, we don’t let them go,” she stated. “Because our name is on that, and we want the companies to know that we are producing great drivers.” An additional 10 hours of drive time is offered by the school at no cost for students who need more practice and confidence.
SCCTC is considering adding Heavy Equipment certification to the curriculum so drivers will be qualified to load and unload their own trucks and Diesel Mechanics certification so that drivers can help maintain their own vehicles. Each add-on increases the value of the graduate and their salaries. So, with earnings potential for truck drivers reaching $70,000 or more per year, Leadership members couldn’t help wondering why more people in Wyoming County are still unaware of this incredible opportunity.
One possibility is that class sizes are kept small. That allows for more interaction with the instructors and more time for each student on the large, paved driving range constructed specifically for the school. Students can complete the course in as few as five weeks.
Several Wyoming County residents have successfully completed the course and gained their certification, including Katelyn Hug of Lake Winola. Not only was she looking for a job that would keep her close enough to home to look after her farm animals, she wants to stay local to spend time with her father, Tony. Sadly, her mother, Shawnna, passed away when Kaitlyn was just two weeks into the course. Both parents, Kaitlyn related, were supportive of her enrollment at the CDL school.
“They were very encouraging for me to take this new career path,” said Kaitlyn, noting that Tony works at PennDOT, where she would like to be hired to drive dump trucks. He had learned about the course at SCCTC about the same time that Kaitlyn was getting information about the school through the Trehab Workforce Program.
What appeals to Kaitlyn most about trucking is that drivers will always be needed. “There will also be a job,” she remarked, adding, “It does take hard work and dedication. I’m a hard worker, and I like to challenge myself a lot.”
Her first challenge was that she had never driven with a clutch before. Instructor Dale Fisher helped her understand standard transmission and gave her plenty of time to practice shifting. “He was very good at explaining things,” Kaitlyn said of Dale. “He taught me a lot.”
When asked why she would recommend the SCCTC CDL Training Center to others, Kaitlyn said, “The atmosphere is really great. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. The instruction is the same, and they don’t discriminate.”
With June’s session now completed, the next CDL class will run from July 26 to Aug. 27, Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 4:30 pm. For more information about the CDL Training Center, log on to www.SCCTC-School.org.
Enjoying a lunch prepared by SCCTC Culinary Arts students prior to a tour of the CDL Training Center recently were (clockwise, from left) SCCTC director Alice Davis, SCCTC financial aid coordinator Tammi Mowry, Heather Clark of Huntzinger Management Group, Kate Kamp of Williams, Jamie Chan of Procter & Gamble, Becki Talcott of Deer Park Lumber, Bryan Bockhorn of Eastern Penn Supply Co., Ryan Holleran of GasSearch Drilling Services, Chamber president Gina Suydam, and Mariellen Walsh of Lackawanna College.