ZANESVILLE — Tucked away behind the Eastpointe Industrial Park is the newest tool in Mid-East Career and Technology Center’s ever evolving quest to fulfil the needs of local, regional and national employers.
Not long after Mid-East Superintendent Matt Sheridan arrived on campus two years ago, Adult Education Director Connie Shriver told him the school’s Commercial Driver’s License program was likely to expand following implementation of new federal rules regarding the truck driver training and licensing.
With the school’s CDL facility already too small, the search began for a new location. That culminated with the purchase of an 11-acre property on Church Hill Road earlier this year. A building on the property, 12,000 square feet, will house both classrooms and a garage that will hold several semi trucks.
The new facility will allow Mid-East to expand its CDL classes, and open a testing facility to help ease both a driver shortage and a testing backlog. The nearest testing facilities are in Gnadenhutten and Columbus. Both have months-long waits for testing.
The property cost Mid-East $1.4 million, and an additional $150,000 is need to reconfigure the building to be better suited for classrooms. The building has one room suitable for use as a classroom now, but the school would like to rebuild so multiple classes can be session at the same time. An additional $400,000 to $500,000 is needed to make the remaining acreage suitable for use as an outdoor training area.
Mid-East hopes to have the new facility open as a new CDL testing site this summer, with the classroom and training portion to follow. The school has requested funding from local legislators to help complete the project, which includes flattening the remaining acreage and installing fencing and lighting. Last week, the Ohio Department of Higher Education awarded a grant for $83,278 for commercial truck driver student aid.
Proposed two years earlier, the new federal rules in February 2022 dictated that every commercial truck driver would need to be trained at a registered-training facility. That meant a lot of companies that used to train in-house would have to be registered, or find a facility that is.
“To be listed as a registered-training provider, there are certain rules and regulations you have to adhere to, and a curriculum to follow” Shriver said.
Mid-East — which serves 13 districts in Southeast Ohio — has seen demand for the program grow over time. Started in 2015 as an add-on to other majors like the school’s power line program, it is now its own major. “In March we added another section,” Shriver said. “We have so many people on the waiting list we added another class.” They also added flexibility to the class, with some students moving through in five or six weeks, and others coming one day a week for several months to be able to balance other work duties with getting their CDL.
The property Mid-East is using for driver training now is too small, said Shawn Dansby, the head of the CDL program at Mid-East. “At most we can have three trucks running.” The new facility will allow more students to be working with trucks at the same time. It will also give the class a home of their own. “Right now we are playing musical classrooms,” Dansby said.
Expanding the CLD program is just one way Mid-East is adjusting to the labor demands.
Staying ahead of employers’ needs
“All of our programs are driven by business advisory councils,” said Sheridan. Business owners and industry professionals meet with the teaching staff to talk about what skills are in demand, and where they see their industry in the future. The goal is to adjust programming to provide students skills, certifications and degrees that are in demand.
The councils are vital to Mid-East’s success and survival. In order to stay accredited, 60% of students need to graduate, and 70% of graduating students need to find a position in their field.
Shriver said the staff is always looking for ways to improve their programs. The recent push for rural broadband has resulted in a certified fiberoptic technician class, because of an expected demand for skilled workers when broadband infrastructure starts to develop.
Sheridan said job placement for students still in classes has soared. “It has been a huge positive,” he said. “It is almost too late for employers to wait for kids to graduate, they can’t sit around and wait because they are already taken.”
Students interested in the CDL program must have a valid driver’s license with no more than four points on their current license, and no DUI or similar convictions in the previous five years. Students will have to pass a drug test and a Department of Transportation physical exam. A diploma is not required.
Districts served by Mid-East are Caldwell Exempted Village, Cambridge City, Crooksville Exempted Village, East Guernsey Local, East Muskingum Local, Franklin Local, Maysville Local, Noble Local, Northern Local, Rolling Hills Local, Tri-Valley Local, West Muskingum Local, and Zanesville City.
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