Hinds Community College’s partner in a truck driver training program, KLLM Transport Services, opened a new KLLM Driving Academy on March 3.
Partnering with Hinds Community College’s Career and Technical Education Division, the KLLM Academy will offer truck driver classroom training as well as on-the-road driving training to prepare students to earn their Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and begin a new career in trucking. The new facility is located at 130 Riverview Drive in Jackson next to the KLLM corporate offices.
The partnership between Hinds Community College and KLLM Driving Academy is approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, through Hinds Community College. Participants receive college credit hours via Hinds online business courses.
To pay for the instructors’ salaries and simulators, the college is using a portion of a nearly $2.3 million U.S. Department of Labor grant, which is part of a larger nine-college, eight-state consortium for community colleges along the Mississippi River. The grant project is aimed at expanding targeted training programs for unemployed workers, especially those impacted by foreign trade. It’s part of the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training grant program.
The grant funds received by Hinds allow the incorporation of “stackable credentials.” The students will earn a Commercial Driver’s License stacked with a career certificate. New curriculum is being developed for an Entrepreneur package to prepare graduates to become owner operators. These three credentials will allow commercial truck driving students to be highly credentialed and highly skilled. They are more marketable to employers while filling the needs of the workforce, which is one of the goals of Hinds Career-Technical Education division, said Dr. Joyce Jenkins, dean of the Raymond Campus division.
Students who successfully graduate and complete the six-week internship will be guaranteed a job as a KLLM driver. A $4,000 scholarship will also be available to cover the cost of the academy for any driver who agrees to drive for KLLM for one year. Students will train in KLLM’s new, fully equipped late-model trucks as well as state-of-the-art simulators and labs.
“We’re proud to open this new training facility and feel that it’s just one way we can do our part to meet the current shortage of trained truck drivers,” said KLLM President and CEO Jim Richards. “We’re guaranteeing graduates a job with us once they finish all their training. Students will learn on the exact equipment they’ll be driving with us, so they get hands-on experience they can use the very first day of their employment. We have a vested interest in seeing these students succeed, because we’re training our future employees.”
Richards outlined the three phases the academy will encompass. First is classroom instruction which also includes time in a tractor simulator lab, a refrigerated trailer lab and a computer lab. Phase two involves 12 days of behind-the-wheel driving training over the road and on KLLM’s driving range. The final phase takes place once students have passed their CDL licensing test and graduated from the academy. It includes six weeks of over-the-road driving training with a KLLM certified trainer.
Once at KLLM, new drivers will be paid a salary while on the road with their trainer as well as having a comprehensive benefit package after three months of employment and a 401(k) retirement plan after six months of employment.
Mississippi’s need for commercial truck drivers is projected to grow by 13 percent (representing 1,734 jobs) by 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the job prospects and marketability of drivers will increase considerably in our area. A report from the Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., which compiles data from Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, suggests that truck driving ranks as the fourth highest occupation in demand. In Mississippi, there are currently 42,740 jobs in the commercial truck driving field with 13,410 of these jobs being in the Hinds Community College District.
Graduates from the Commercial Truck Driving program through Hinds Community College and KLLM Transport Services can enter the workforce as an entry level driver and can expect to have current median hourly earnings of $16.07.