Career center to educate ‘Road Scholars’ at new Transportation Academy

MIDDLEBURY — The Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center has put into gear a new program aimed at getting young adults on the road to good-paying jobs in the transportation industry.
It’s called the “Transportation Academy,” geared to students 18 and over who are willing to take evening classes en route to a certificate that will qualify them for a variety of jobs planning, maintaining and traveling on state and local roads.
It was during the fall of 2011 that the University of Vermont’s Transportation Resources Center contacted Hannaford Career Center Executive Director Lynn Coale about establishing a program to generate more qualified applicants for road-related jobs. Coale explained that the Vermont Agency of Transportation, known as VTrans, and several towns throughout the state are currently trying to recruit people for road crew or truck driving jobs — or expect to soon be in need of such workers.
Between 40 percent and 50 percent of the state’s transportation workforce is expected to retire within the next 10 years, according to the UVM Transportation Resource Center. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded almost $1 million to UVM to initiate a Transportation Education Development Pilot Program.
“It is an aging workforce right now,” Coale said.
The town of Middlebury does not currently have any vacancies on its seven-member highway department roster, according town Director of Operations Dan Werner. But several members of the crew are older than 40 and Werner anticipates the town could be facing some retirements in eight to 12 years. The new academy could provide the town with some young and qualified replacements.
“We rarely see younger applicants,” said Werner, who is aware of the new Transportation Academy. “It’s like public works jobs aren’t even on the radar screen for young workers.”
Career Center officials were unable to address UVM’s appeal in 2011, as they were in the midst of creating a meat cutters’ program — another industry in which there are a shortage of trained workers. But Coale and his colleagues began working in earnest last fall on the new Transportation Academy, in collaboration with UVM, the Community College of Vermont, the Vermont Department of Labor and Vermont Adult Learning. The coalition organized an academy that launched this semester. It features a series of seven courses, including “Workplace Safety,” “Project Planning,” “Work Zone Flagging,” and “Intro to Transportation.” The courses drill students in such basics as rules of the road; identifying traffic hazards;  how to design and lay out a road and calculate the cost of such a project; first aid; and winter road maintenance.
Students will receive a certificate upon completion of each course during the semester. They must collect a total of eight certificates and perform 2,000 hours of apprenticeship in the industry, working with area towns and VTrans. The students at this point can earn their Commercial Drivers License (CDL) through the Champlain Valley Driving School and thereby make themselves eligible for many transportation-related jobs, Coale noted.
“They will be walking out of here into some really good jobs,” he said of the future graduates. “And these are jobs that are never going to get shipped overseas.”
Those who successfully earn the course certificates, complete the apprenticeship and pass the CDL test will have passed “Transportation I” and will receive top consideration for job openings for many related state and local jobs, according to Coale. The career center is already working on a “Transportation II” program that will, among other things, teach students about the operation of heavy and light equipment.
Thanks to a UVM grant, there is some scholarship assistance available for students in the new Transportation Academy. And Coale added students can get state assistance in obtaining their CDL, a process that can cost upwards of $3,000, he noted. He placed the cost of completing the Transportation I program at around $2,500.
Anyone interested in enrolling in the Transportation Academy should log on to www.hannafordcareercenter.org, or call 382-1012.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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