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The transportation industry is filling an economic void in North Carolina following the departure of the textile and furniture industries.
Photo: Davidson County Community College
Davidson County Community College (DCCC) in North Carolina was already serving a economically troubled area before the current recession hit. Long gone were the textile and furniture industries that provided jobs for generations.
But the area is a key transportation hub that may open the doors to jobs from trucking to logistics. DCCC President Mary Rittling noted there are some bright spots on the horizon, including the relocation of Timco Aviation Services to the area, that can help pull the region out of double-digit unemployment.
“We’re starting to see more jobs in transportation,” Rittling said. “We have the infrastructure, including railroads and roadways and can reach 60 to 70 percent of the United States within a couple of days.”
DCCC’s proximity to Interstate 85 has had a big influence, she noted.
“The transportation sector showed the highest potential for job growth in the Piedmont region,” which is a major hub for getting goods to and from industry, manufacturers and consumers, added Randy Ledford, dean of business, engineering and technical studies at DCCC.
Preparing for an upswing in transportation
About 100 DCCC students are in transportation-related programs and should have no trouble getting jobs. In fact, it’s been more of a challenge convincing students to decline job offers until they complete college, Rittling said. DCCC offers associate degrees in applied science and various certificates for those planning transportation-related careers.
A new center for transportation technologies—opened a year ago at DCCC with funding from the federal Economic Development Administration and North Carolina’s tobacco settlement—is already over capacity. The facility has eight automotive bays along with classrooms to train students on repairing trucks, cars and heavy equipment.
Preparing for higher-skilled jobs
Metropolitan Community College (MCC) in Nebraska is encouraging students in its truck-driving programs to beef up their technology skills so they can extend their reach into distribution, logistics and supply-chain management.
“What we keep hearing from our business partners in the transportation industry is that truck driving is just a small percentage of the jobs available in transportation,” said Bill Owen, MCC’s associate vice president for academic affairs. Employment opportunities in Nebraska’s transportation sector are expected to increase 27 percent by 2015, he said.
People who complete the commercial truck driving program at MCC can readily get jobs driving trucks and usually spend some time on the road before moving on to better jobs, Owen said.
“What we have proposed—but not implemented yet—is giving these students more training in hands-on technology at the start of the program, rather than later,” he said.
MCC is involved in a statewide program to create career pathways in transportation from middle school through graduate school.
As described by Owen in a paper he will present this month at the National Transportation Workforce Summit (hosted by the Council of University Transportation Centers), at the middle school level the program aims to get students interested in transportation careers. In high schools, it supports programs in work readiness and technical skills development, allowing students to earn credit for taking transportation courses at community colleges.
At the higher education level, the program promotes articulation agreements to encourage students to apply their associate degrees toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees. It also supports embedded entrepreneurship education to encourage business expansions, spinoffs and start-ups in the transportation sector.
MCC offers associate degrees in industrial distribution and diesel technology, along with short-term certificates in commercial truck driving. In addition, the college has an articulation agreement with Bellevue University for those who want to continue their education in transportation.
The goal is to make people—especially current truck drivers—aware of the different career in transportion.
"If they have enough technology savvy in such areas as RFID tagging and barcoding, they can transition into supply-chain management, industrial distribution or other related careers,” Owen said. “There is more to product movement than getting into a truck and driving across the country. But to get into those areas you need some postsecondary education.”
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