METROPOLIS — With trucking jobs in high demand locally and across the country, Shawnee Community College Tuesday broke ground on a program expanding its commercial driver’s license (CDL) class to Metropolis.
“Every sector of our economy has been transformed by online commerce and globalization,” said College President Tim Taylor.
He said the Illinois Department of Labor estimates local demand for truck drivers at 2,000 new drivers per year for the foreseeable future.
“Really, almost everyone here today that’s wearing clothes, and I think all of you are wearing … something that’s been touched by a truck at least five or six times,” Taylor said.
Shawnee’s main campus currently graduates about 30 students a year in its trucking program, Taylor said.
The expansion of the Metropolis facility will allow for more than 100 graduates per year.
Truck driving coordinator Kelly Jennings said eight students were already enrolled in the first grade.
Kelly said the expansion will expand the parking lot and install a new classroom for the program.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Darci Cather also spoke at the ceremony and noted that the course can be completed in just seven weeks.
Cather said that when evaluating whether to add or expand programs, she asks, “Will this program provide better lives for our students and their families?”
“Considering the truck driving program, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes’.”
Illinois Senator Dale Fowler (R-59th) and Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-118th) attended the ceremony and helped break ground.
Addressing the gathering, Fowler praised the initiative, which “has given us the opportunity to create more jobs that are badly needed in the trucking sector.”
“It is an honor to see the growth and prosperity coming to Southern Illinois.”
Windhorst said after the ceremony that the expansion will not only help meet demand in the trucking industry but will also provide job opportunities for local residents.
“This will provide another opportunity that might not have existed without this training facility and would not have been available in Metropolis,” said Windhorst, himself a Shawnee Community College graduate.
“Personally, as an alum, it’s exciting to see good things happening at college.”