By Jed Arnold, Community Outreach and Stewardship Coordinator
One of the most consistent topics of conversation that comes up when I speak with other community members on Oregon’s North Coast is the rising cost of living here (particularly housing costs) and a lack of steady, family-wage employment. Working in the forest sector, however, I know that our colleagues and contractors in the forest sector often struggle to find skilled workers for a variety of high-paying jobs. Like many other skilled jobs in industry and the trades, commercial truck driver jobs are hard to fill, as there are oftentimes more openings than qualified workers looking to fill them. We employ contract truck drivers during every stage of our operations on the North Coast. Dump truck drivers help us build and maintain our forest roads, log truck drivers deliver trees to our local mills, and short-haul truck drivers move lumber from our Warrenton mill to our rail-transfer yard in Portland and transfer wood byproducts to local paper mills. The gap between available trucking jobs and qualified candidates is something we know we need to help address.
One way to do this is through support for local training opportunities. This month, Clatsop Community College will wrap up its first Truck Driving Training Program in Astoria. The program is based on a similar effort at Tillamook Bay Community College and is designed to give local residents the opportunity to become a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Certified Truck Driver without the expense, inconvenience and transportation barriers involved in attending courses over an hour away in Tillamook. Students can complete the program and earn their CDL in just four weeks. Hampton is a proud member of the program’s advisory board, providing input on how the program can best prepare students for jobs in local industries.
The first program, which runs from March 18 through April 12 consists of one week of classroom training and three weeks of field training on location. Partial scholarships from Tillamook Bay Community College were available to help cover the cost of the program, which comes to approximately $5,000 per student. The initial offering was capped at four students, however, a second offering is planned to begin in May and already has seven students enrolled. Additional offerings are currently under development.
The CDL program at Clatsop Community College is an excellent example of a local organization working to educate our community on the career opportunities in our sector and providing the skills needed to help them quickly become employed in their home community.