Central Carolina Technical College partnership offering CDL program is showing success
Short-term course for drivers can be finished in 4 or 8 weeks with no-cost tuition
BY BRUCE MILLS
Ever thought you could get an education beyond high school for 16 days – at no-cost tuition, by the way – and be set right away for a job paying at least $40,000 with good benefits?
It is true at Central Carolina Technical College with its relatively new commercial driver’s license program that started last year, and students, staff and a graduate “success story” talked this week about the program that can open up doors of opportunity for area residents.
Darntelle Taylor has worked six years at the Sumter branch of the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and heard about the CDL course at Central Carolina and considered it as a step to a better position with the agency and even brighter career opportunities, he said.
By giving eight weekends to the program from late October through mid-December, while still working during the week, Taylor got the training necessary to earn his Class A driver’s license with no cost for tuition to boot.
The program is offered in two ways: the eight weekend sessions or a Monday through Thursday, four-week format during the day. Ancora Education, a training company based out of Texas, manages and operates CCTC’s program in a partnership.
Class sizes are generally eight students for more personalized training, according to program director Michael Hursey of Ancora.
Both program formats translate to 16 total days from start to finish, and the continuing education course has been full every week since it began 10 months ago. More than 100 licensed CDL drivers have been placed into the workforce, according to Josh Castleberry, Central Carolina’s dean of workforce development and environmental training. The local program only paused for the last two weeks of December and the holiday season, Hursey added.
The transportation industry occupation has largescale national shortages, Castleberry and Hursey said.
Before the college implemented the local program, area students had to travel to Florence-Darlington Technical College or Midlands Technical College in Columbia for the training.
Current CDL students Kel Logan, Candace Dicks, Brandon Andrews and Patrina Space are all employed but are still able to go through the CCTC weekday program and see it as a personal investment for move-up opportunities in the future, they said.
All want to potentially own their own trucking company down the road, and they enjoy the program instructors.
Dicks, 30, currently works night shift for the state Department of Corrections and said good opportunities are hard to come by these days.
“And the fact it is funded for us is great,” she said. “People before us had to pay, but we have it funded to us. That is always a plus.
Also, not having to commute out of town for training is another benefit, they said.
Balancing their time between work and the class can be hard, but for four weeks, the credential is well worth it, they added.
Andrews and Space said their full-time employers are allowing them the flexibility to attend the four-week program and then return to work.
Space said her son, who is a high school senior in Clarendon County, is going to sign up for the program this summer after graduation.
Andrews, 23, said many people out there worry about whether they will be accepted into the program based on possibly previous personal struggles in life. He said he did not think he would be accepted, but he was and encouraged others to try.
There are three prerequisites before entering the program, and they include a state Department of Transportation physical, a beginner’s permit for a CDL license and a drug screening.
Castleberry, of CCTC, said the program partnership and specialized training are great examples for success in today’s high-skills economy and workforce.
EARNING A CDL DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN OVER-THE-ROAD WORK
A discouragement at times for entering the trucking industry as a driver is over-the-road work and being away from home during the week, especially if someone has a family.
Hursey, the program instructor, said there are local options for a CDL driver that do not require night work and consistently being away from home for long periods. He often tells students that an individual with a CDL can work for a local municipality – such as a city or a county – in waste management, for a power or utility company, and there are other opportunities.
He said those jobs roughly start out at $40,000 to $50,000 per year. Over-the-road drivers can make $50,000 to $60,000 in the first year.
‘YOU CAN DO IT,’ GRADUATE SAYS
Like the current students, Taylor – the program graduate from December – said anyone can get through the program with some determination.
“What I would tell people is: Don’t let anyone stop you from your dreams,” he said. “I believe in this season that we are currently in; these are the seasons that everything God has promised us is going to come to pass. All it takes is a little bit of faith, and the skies are the limit. It is possible. It was a struggle to work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then come out on the weekends and basically do the same thing, so seven days straight. But you can do it. Don’t let nothing stop you. It is only eight weeks. You can count it down.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROGAM AND NO-COST TUITION
– Information on Central Carolina’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program can be found at www.cctech.edu/course/commercial-drivers-license-cdl;
– Information on qualifying for no-cost tuition at CCTC can be found at www.cctech.edu/no-cost-tuition.