BLACKSTONE, VA (WWBT) – A local community college program is soaring in popularity and success. Graduates of the truck driver training program at Southside Virginia Community College are in high demand--most of whom get jobs right away.
These students are learning how to back up and park a big rig. It's just one component of a six week training program.
"We do a lot of vehicle inspections. We do a lot of coupling and uncoupling of tractor trailers, backing, then of course we've got to take care of the highway driving portion," said Duncan Quicke, Truck Driving Training School Instructor.
While these trucks are coming to a halt - these student's careers are moving forward. Steve Rey is here from Lynchburg. He's been unemployed since February and says this program is giving him renewed hope.
"I have three companies right now interested," said Rey. "Thank goodness; since February I haven't had a choice--now I have a choice."
Rey is not alone. Instructors say the classes are consistently at capacity. The program launched 14 years ago. In that time 1,450 people have graduated, and 75 percent or just less than 1,100 are working as professional drivers in the trucking industry. A recent uptick in the economy has helped.
"We've started to see an upturn, we are getting more calls from the companies, our graduates are having an easier time getting pre-hires, so things are starting to head back up," said Duncan.
Students we spoke with say it's hard to find jobs right now, especially ones that pay a decent wage. Trucking pays between $35,000 and $50,000 a year plus benefits, and if you can cope with being away from home and your family it might be the right job for you. That's the case for Steve Rey.
"I'm in a situation to where with my age, my children are grown, so now I can go out and do things that years ago I could have never even dreamed of doing," he said.
The twelve people in the current training program will graduate next Friday, and most of them will have a job before the weekend is over.
Tuition runs about $2,000, but financial aid options are available. The next class at Fort Pickett starts on August 30. For more information, click here.