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August 8, 2017 10:00 AM, EDT
Illinois Community College Adds CDL Classes to Fill Growing Demand for Truck Drivers
Student Driver Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

Sauk Valley Community College in Illinois is ramping up its commercial driver’s license training, adding classes to funnel more workers into the region’s top-growing occupation.

For the past decade, the college has offered a CDL course in the summer, fall and spring through an agreement with Illinois Valley Community College.

Sauk recently formed a new partnership with 160 Driving Academy to offer more frequent courses. The first of those classes – one of five that will be offered this semester – runs Aug. 21 to Sept. 15.

“We felt there was a real need to offer the class more often,” said Brenda Helms, community education coordinator at Sauk.

The demand for heavy and semitrailer truck drivers increased 32% from 2011 to 2016, adding 720 jobs – going from 2,285 to 3,005 – in Lee, Whiteside, Ogle, Bureau, Carroll, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, and Putnam counties, according to a regional State of the Workforce report released last month by the Business Employment Skills Team Inc.

That number is projected to grow 15%, which means 459 more jobs in the next 5 years.

“The truck driving industry is a high-demand occupation, and we wanted to better serve our community so when they finish their training, they can find employment,” Helms said.

The 4-week class – a week of classroom work and 3 weeks behind the wheel – runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each will have four to eight students.

It is offered free of charge through a job placement program, and financial aid is available for veterans or those who are unemployed or underemployed.

The cost is $4,695 or $4,520 if students pay by cash, check or card, which includes a drug test, a physical and the permit needed for the Class A license.

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