Buttigieg Highlights How LCCC Program Puts Veterans, Trucking Industry on the Road to Success
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on August 4, 2022
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stopped at Lehigh Carbon Community College Tuesday to highlight how military veterans can help solve a critical economic challenge: a national truck driver shortage.
LCCC was among 19 recipients of a new federal grant to put more veterans behind the wheel and on the road to success. The two-year, $193,677 grant, part of a nationwide $3.1 million program, covers full tuition for 30 veterans and five people from underserved communities so they learn how to drive the truck, get CDL licenses and secure trucking jobs.
“Veterans know how to get things where they need to go safely,” Buttigieg told a crowd of more than 100. “At a time when our supply chain depends on having more qualified truck drivers, this program will give those who have served in uniform a new and important way to contribute, and benefit, by launching a new career in this vital industry.”
Buttigieg was joined at the event by U.S. Reps. Susan Wild and Patrick Murphy and LCCC President Ann Bieber at LCCC’s main campus in North Whitehall Township where the CDL Training Center is located. Bieber thanked Buttigieg for “recognizing our veterans and their important contribution to economic development, the trucking industry and their services to the United States.”
During his 90-minute visit, Buttigieg met with college officials, staff and community leaders, fielded questions about workforce issues, toured the training area, and spoke with students in the program. The Class A CDL Training Program runs 172 hours over four weeks and Class B runs 80 hours over four weeks. Classes are kept small so that students can get more time behind the wheel and learn at their own pace.
Among those completing his coursework is Jabree Williams, 31, of Tamaqua. He will take his CDL test this month.
“We are really counting on you,” Buttigieg told him. “You’re a hot commodity.”
Truck driving is a critical occupation in the Lehigh Valley, located in the heart of the Northeast market and within a day’s drive of a third of the nation’s population. With easy access to major highways, an intermodal and international airport, the Lehigh Valley is among the top growing industrial real estate markets in the nation.
Businesses in the logistics sector have a strong, expanding presence in the Lehigh Valley and a natural synergy with manufacturing companies. Home to Crayola and Mack Trucks, the Lehigh Valley is among the country’s 50 largest manufacturing markets. Manufacturing depends on the logistics sector to get goods to consumers.
“Building a talent pipeline to support the growing manufacturing sector and the good-paying jobs is a priority for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC),” Karianne Gelinas, Vice President of Regional Partnerships and Talent Strategies noted. “To bolster this effort, the LVEDC-led Education and Talent Supply Council recently completed an update of a study analyzing future workforce needs and challenges in partnership with the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley.”
Workforce initiatives in the Lehigh Valley are supported by three technical schools and 11 colleges and universities, including two community colleges. The Lehigh Valley offers truck driver training programs at LCCC and Northampton Community College, among others.
The community colleges are regular recruitment stops for trucking companies like TMC Transportation, headquartered in Des Moines. The company’s 2,500 drivers haul flatbed trailers carrying pipe, steel coil and more.
“I’ve been coming here [LCCC] for 12 years and others from the company before me,” said Adam Hoffman of TMC.
That, he said, speaks to the quality of the program.
Heavy and trailer truck driving is among the most in demand occupations in the region, with companies now advertising in the region a median wage of $56,000. Meanwhile, there are more than 30,000 veterans in the area. Among them is Matthew Marcano, a Navy medic skilled at endurance and flexibility but lacking certifications civilian sector requires. He’s now completing the driver training program at LCCC, thanks to the new funding.
“It gave me an opportunity to provide for my family when my skills and my caliber was not appropriate or recognized here in the civilian sector,” said Marcano, 28, of Allentown. “But now I have a new opportunity, a new chance to provide for the community and definitely give back.”
The federal grant paying for his tuition comes from the Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training (CMVOST) Grant Program, which allowed a broader range of institutions to apply because matching funds were not required. It’s part of a larger federal push to strengthen the trucking industry. The Trucking Action Plan, announced earlier this year by the Biden Administration, has created new apprenticeship program, a compensation study and a truck leasing task force to improve retention, according to Buttigieg’s office.
Buttigieg’s stop at LCCC was part of a larger tour to understand the impact of the $1.2 trillion, bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act President Biden signed in November. Earlier Tuesday, Buttigieg visited the Lehigh Valley International, which received a $5 million grant for the construction of a new 4-lane security checkpoint that will more than double the current passenger screening volume to 740 an hour. Wild had also helped secure $600,000 in Community Project Funding to further upgrade security technology.
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