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Kris Bevill, Forum News Service, Published September 18 2013

Demand drives trucker training course

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – A program recently developed and implemented by Cankdeska Cikana Community College, a tribal college located on the Spirit Lake Reservation near Devils Lake, and TrainND Northeast, located at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, is training a new pool of recruits to fill the need for commercial driver’s license drivers throughout the region.

The program is unique in that it is designed for students with no prior experience driving big rigs. While other programs require trainees to have a standard set of skills, this program allows the extra time needed to bring students up to speed and provide them with the knowledge they need to continue on the road toward obtaining their CDL license.

“We have students who have never driven a manual transmission, and never backed up even a small trailer, but they are looking for a career, and we are willing to take the extra time to train them,” says Greg Blanchfield, CDL trainer.

Edie Armey, director of TrainND Northeast, says TrainND’s short-course for drivers was developed with the agricultural industry in mind and requires attendees to have a CDL permit before taking the course. The longer version now offered at LRSC includes a week of training to prepare students to take their permit test, complete with hands-on training using semis owned by Blanchfield and leased by TrainND.

The program was made possible through a combination of Job Service of North Dakota funding, geared toward providing training for veterans and Native Americans in fields such as welding and truck driving, and a grant obtained by the college. The cost to attend the course is about $5,500, compared to $1,000 for the 45-hour short course. Two training sessions have been held so far, with a total of 20 students. Of those, seven participants have received their CDLs and are currently employed, according to Evelyn McDonald, director of workforce training at the college.

Armey foresees continued demand for CDL training in the eastern part of the state due partially to industry growth, but also because companies are losing workers to higher paying opportunities in western North Dakota. And job opportunities there, and throughout the region, are expected to continue to increase as well.