Access to training is key to addressing national transportation shortage

America is a nation on wheels. From freight hauled in trains and tractor trailers to people in buses, nothing moves without the vehicles that transport them. Stores don’t get stocked, workplaces don’t get staffed, and families don’t see one another across the thousands of miles that constitute this vast land.

But those vehicles don’t move unless there are people qualified to operate and maintain them. And therein lies one of the biggest problems our country faces in these still-early decades of the 21st century. The trucking industry alone faces a massive talent gap. Data from the American Trucking Associations shows a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers nationwide, and some estimates say that shortage could double to 160,000 by 2030 — just seven years from now.

Trucking is an industry with an aging pool of employees. As older truckers retire, the industry struggles to attract young people to the ranks. And all the while, the need to transport goods increases with every factory, warehouse and store that opens.

Some of the same problems affect other transportation sectors. Many cities struggle to hire enough qualified bus drivers for their school districts and mass transit services. 

The solution to this widespread talent deficit begins with recruitment and training — and that is where trucking schools and community colleges play a vital role. These institutions represent the gateway to the trucking industry, and it is our job to help transportation companies and organizations in the areas we serve find talent and develop it into a qualified, motivated and scalable workforce.

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) has embraced this responsibility and is one of Northeast Ohio’s largest trainers of transportation professionals. We continue to invest resources to ensure we meet the challenge.

The Transportation Innovation Center (TIC) in Euclid is Tri-C’s hub for transportation training. More than 100 students train yearly at the facility, which houses vehicles and equipment used in a wide range of specializations. An average day at the TIC finds students practicing tractor-trailer maneuvers on the large concrete pad or learning the rules of the road on nearby streets and highways. They might also be in the classroom learning how a truck engine works, operating a forklift in the warehouse training center or testing for their commercial driver’s licenses. Others are learning how to operate a bus, thanks to the donation of two motor coaches from the Greater Cleveland RTA last year — part of a longstanding training partnership between Tri-C and RTA.

We’re proud of these students and the hundreds who came before them. And yet, we know it is still not enough. To address the nationwide shortage, Tri-C and other training providers must grow enrollment in this area. We are proactively going into our communities to find the people who will, quite literally, move our nation into the future. And they will not only move our nation forward, but they will also build a future for themselves and their families with a high-paying, stable career that lasts for decades.

Whether it is recruiting at high schools or those no longer in school who are looking for a career with good pay and a sense of purpose or engaging the older adult looking for a new career, we must actively seek out the next generation of professionals and turn them into a workforce America can rely upon.

Michael A. Baston is President of Cuyahoga Community College

Michael A. Baston



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