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Northeast awarded grant to expand truck driver training

Northeast awarded grant to expand truck driver training

NORFOLK, Neb. – A look at any online job board demonstrates the need for more individuals to fill transportation jobs that are critical to a number of Nebraska businesses. This summer, one board cited 139 open trash hauler positions – 60 of which were in northeast Nebraska, while another revealed 138 open concrete driver positions – 53 in northeast Nebraska.

A training program at Northeast Community College that offers a program to teach individuals the skills necessary to gain a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) now has the opportunity train even more drivers who are looking for additional certification.

The Nebraska Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education program has awarded the institution a $92,000 reVISION Action grant to enhance its existing Class A CDL training program, as well as expand into Class B training.

A Class A license allows individuals to operate tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tractor-trailer buses, tankers, livestock carriers, and flatbeds. A Class B license permits individuals to operate straight trucks, dump trucks, parcel delivery trucks, garbage trucks, cement mixers and others.

Dr. Michele Gill, interim vice president of Educational Services, said Northeast Community College has a long track record with its existing truck-driving training program in contributing to both the success of students and in serving its 20-county service area. She said the expansion of the program through the grant will address a need the College has been hearing from many businesses across the region that are looking to hire more drivers.

“Companies have been reaching out to Northeast indicating that there is a great demand for this type of training. The funds will allow for the purchase of a used truck and the hiring of part-time credentialed trainers,” Gill said. “The overall goal is to establish Northeast as the leader not only in Class A, but also Class B CDL training.”

The reVISION Action grant has been designed to improve, modernize, or expand career education programs to align with Nebraska’s economic priorities and workforce labor demands. Only activities that align with high-skill, high-wage, high-demand (H3) occupational preparation, including transportation and logistics, were considered for funding.

At Northeast, a portion of the grant will be used to offset expenses to hire another trainer to reintroduce the College’s 56-hour short-term Class A CDL training and expand its Professional Truck Driving course offerings to high school students who attend classes at Northeast’s extended campus in West Point through the Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T) consortium. In addition, the part-time trainer will mean Northeast can offer Class B CDL training in both Norfolk and across the region.

Dean of Applied Technology Shanelle Grudzinski, said a Class B CDL license gives drivers more opportunities for local and flexible truck driving jobs in areas such as construction, shipping, and public transit. Individuals with a Class B CDL may operate straight trucks, dump trucks, parcel delivery trucks, furniture delivery trucks, garbage trucks, cement mixers, buses (with some training limits), tow trucks, small tank trucks, and food service trucks.

“Many companies are reaching out to Northeast for assistance in getting unqualified – or underqualified – candidates the necessary credentials to meet their employment needs,” Grudzinski said. “The grant will further enable the College to expand upon its Class A CDL training opportunities and Class B training.”

In addition to working with employers, Northeast’s truck driving program has developed relationships with additional partners. 

This includes the Northeast Nebraska Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, which has members serving on the truck driving program’s advisory board. In addition, Northeast partners frequently with area Workforce Development offices to jointly find solutions for individuals and employers alike. Collaboration with Northeast’s advanced English as a Second Language program and Adult Education and GED® programs have established a pathway for groups of special populations to obtain their CDL and assists them in identifying, applying, and landing a good job.

Grudzinski said an employment survey taken four years ago indicated there were nearly 4,000 truck drivers in northeast Nebraska, with that number projected to rise to approximately 4,500 by 2026, an increase of 12.1%.

She said the projected increase is a result of two factors – combining the average annual occupational transfers (those who leave the field) and the average annual growth openings in a specific field. Also, data from 2017 indicated the average annual wage of a truck driver in northeast Nebraska was $43,971 ($21.14 an hour) with the average experienced wage at $50,069.

“The statistics make a compelling case for truck driving as a high-demand and high-wage profession,” Grudzinski said.

To learn more about the truck driving program at Northeast Community College, go online to




Northeast Community College semi tractors sit on the institution’s truck driving program course in Norfolk. The Nebraska Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education program has awarded Northeast a reVISION Action grant to enhance its existing Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program, as well as expand into Class B training.