Local and National Programs to Address Supply Chain Workforce Demand
7 Feb 2022
Located approximately 45 minutes north of Houston, Texas, Conroe is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. The combination of nearly two million potential employees within a 40-mile radius and many distribution centers and manufacturing facilities located in Conroe typically provides the perfect combination for workforce supply and demand. Yet, like many across the country, some Conroe businesses have experienced workforce shortages over the last year in the supply chain industry, resulting in shipping delays.
Fortunately, there are local and national resources working to help improve the situation for businesses and customers alike on the horizon.
Local Truck Driver Programs through Lone Star College
Individuals can enter the truck driving profession at Lone Star College’s Professional Truck Driver Program. New truck drivers receive training and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) certification at its Transportation & Global Logistics Technology Center with state-of-the-art technology and equipment in a 16,000 square foot facility in nearby Spring, Texas. The facility houses six classrooms, a large driving track, six backing pads, and a realistic truck driving simulator.
Those seeking only a CDL certificate can achieve that status in as little as seven weeks through the Fast Track Program at Lone Star College as well. The program offers participants a Lone Star College workforce program certificate and a state-issued Class A CDL.
National Program Called Trucking Action Plan
To improve workforce needs in the supply chain industry, the U.S. government launched the Trucking Action Plan in December 2021. The program was introduced as part of the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, initiated in June 2021, to address supply chain bottlenecks created when the economy jump-started after the pandemic slowdown.
The following concrete actions of the plan will lay the foundation for a next-generation trucking workforce and support numerous good jobs.
Expedite the issuance of CDLs by reducing barriers
The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are working to support state departments of motor vehicles by working hand-in-hand with them to address the challenges they are facing. FMCSA will
- Provide over $30 million in funding to help states expedite CDLs
- Send every state a toolkit detailing specific actions to take to expedite the process, such as expanding hours and locations and moving processes online
Accelerate the expansion of Registered Apprenticeships
In an effort to put more well-trained drivers on the road, a 90-day challenge was kicked-off to recruit employers interested in developing new Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs and to support those interested in expanding existing programs. RA programs are the gold standard of driver training because they provide paid, on-the-job learning. Expanding this proven workforce strategy in the trucking industry will ensure high-quality instruction for new drivers and will help employers develop and train a skilled workforce.
There are currently more than 10,000 apprentices in the trucking industry. The Department of Labor (DOL) and national partners such as FASTPORT are committed to helping accelerate new program development in as little as two days. FASTPORT is a DOL-funded national apprenticeship intermediary partner that focuses on the transportation sector and is committed to working with trucking employers, unions, and industry associations to achieve program creation goals. DOL is investing $8 million in more national apprenticeship intermediaries who can help employers start RAs.
DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship’s has consultants located across the country who will assist organizations interested in starting a new program or joining an existing program and has launched a 90-Day Apprenticeship Trucking Challenge website.
Conduct veterans-focused outreach and recruitment
Because there are approximately 70,000 veterans who are likely to have certified trucking experience in the last five years, the DOL Veterans’ Employment and Training Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will step up efforts and partnerships to help transition service members and veterans to good jobs in the trucking industry.
- Explore using the Off-Base Transition Training Pilot Program to extend the employment readiness curriculum to connect veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and their spouses to a career path in trucking
- Work by DOL and VA to ensure veterans’ driving experience is recognized for those seeking a CDL and will build on proven models, such as SkillBridge programs
- Expand partnerships between the Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot and the trucking industry
Launch “Driving Good Jobs” initiative
The “Driving Good Jobs” initiative, launched jointly by DOT and DOL, will focus on ensuring a strong and safe trucking workforce. Key aspects of the initiative include:
- Hosting listening sessions that engage drivers, unions and worker centers, industry, and advocates
- Lifting up employers and best practices that support job quality and driver retention
- Implementing research and engagement efforts such as studying the issue of truck driver pay and unpaid waiting time
- Identifying effective and safe strategies to get new entrants in the field from underrepresented communities, including women and young drivers between the ages of 18-20
- Setting up a task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements
- Ascertaining longer-term actions, such as potential administrative or regulatory actions, that support drivers and driver retention by improving the quality of trucking jobs
The Conroe Economic Development Council assists local companies with the hands-on support they need to solve challenges, such as supply chain issues, obstructing their success. Please contact us to learn more.