New West Bend truck driving school to help combat severe labor shortage

NOW: New West Bend truck driving school to help combat severe labor shortage

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WEST BEND, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Ask any local company whether they're having problems hiring truck drivers and you'll likely get the same answer: It's nearly impossible because of the severe labor shortage.

It's a huge need in southeastern Wisconsin, and now, a local tech college has a new program aimed at combating the problem.

Moraine Park Technical College is partnering with Kreilkamp Trucking, Inc., to create the Wisconsin Regional Truck Driving Academy. It's an eight-week program that ends with students getting a commercial driver's license. The program has the ability to generate more than 70 CDL holders a year. The starting salary for a regional truck driver is approximately $61,000 per year.

"Today's day one of the first time we've ever had a truck driving school," said Pete Rettler, campus dean at Moraine Park Technical College. "So this partnership with Kreilkamp -- where they came forward with equipment and resources and we provide the faculty -- we could never have done this alone."

KaNesha McGee, a student from Illinois, used to work security but couldn't hit the brakes on an opportunity like this.

"It definitely brings on more stability and the ability to provide more for my family," McGee said. "So (after) that full two months, you have the full knowledge, you get the full experience, and you're just not throwing somebody out there to the wolves and saying, 'Hey, here's the keys, drive the truck.'"

Kreilkamp, which is based in the Washington County community of Allenton, worked with the college to design the curriculum. The goal is to not only help Kreilkamp get more workers, but also get more drivers into the industry overall.

"Kreilkamp Trucking, on average, depending on the time of year, I've seen 35 to 50 vacancies. So if you think of your business and you have 50 open jobs -- you know that's very limiting," said Emily Sheely, a recruiting manager at Kreilkamp Trucking, Inc.

The country overall is short 80,000 truck drivers. Many people face barriers getting into the industry, such as time and money.

"Let's say you want to get your Class A (commercial driver's license), you're going to have to set aside about 12 weeks and you're going to have to pay upfront for the school," Sheely said.

So Kreilkamp is paying for food, hotels and transportation during the training. Students also get a daily wage and won't have to pay for the education upfront. In exchange, the students will commit to the company for two years.

"It was an area that we had no ability to train truck drivers before, and but yet it's the biggest need in our district," Rettler said.

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