A new collaboration between M State and the Perham-Dent Public School District makes it possible for students to graduate high school with a Class A Commercial Driver’s License already in hand and gainful full-time employment all but guaranteed. Dubbed “Road to CDL,” the initiative is a first for the West Central Minnesota region.
“Road to CDL” is a training program that provides high school students with an affordable and tangible career pathway in commercial driving while simultaneously helping to bridge a regional workforce employment gap. M State’s Workforce Development Solutions (WDS) division and K12 department are working together with Perham High School to offer the program, with further support from local trucking businesses.
“We’re excited to discuss CDL training with high schools and create another career pathway for students,” says G.L. Tucker, Executive Director of WDS. “CDL licensure has been a hot topic for a while, as every zip code in America is short on CDL drivers. M State has been talking to high schools about a CDL program since last spring. Perham is the first to implement it, but other area schools have also expressed interest. We’re one of the largest CDL training providers in the region, if not the largest; we’re
well-positioned to partner on a program like this.”
Ten Perham High School seniors are currently enrolled in “Road to CDL,” and a group of juniors is already poised to enroll next year. Arranged through the school’s Work-Based Learning program, the training is open to students ages 17 and older (drivers must be at least 18 to take the commercial learner’s permit tests). It begins with a trimester-long CDL Theory class, a daily one-hour elective course in which students engage in self-paced online lessons and quizzes. Those who successfully pass the
theory class become eligible to take the state-required commercial learner’s permit tests. Then there’s behind-the-wheel training, at least 20 hours’ worth, before a final road test.
M State provides the course curriculum and online platform for CDL Theory as well as the equipment and certified instructors for behind-the-wheel training. Other support and resources, such as practice learner’s permit tests and guided time during the school day for students to complete their coursework,
are provided by the high school.
“The ultimate goal is to get kids graduating from high school with a CDL license already in hand, so they’re ready to go,” says Darren Glynn, Perham High School’s Work-Based Learning Coordinator. “There’s a need out there. You can’t go by a manufacturing site without a ‘Drivers Wanted’ sign out front, and so many of our kids want to be in that CDL world – a lot are already working at trucking companies around Perham (changing tires, oil, etc.) and their natural next step is to get their CDL, so our
goal is to help expedite that. We hope to create a pipeline of CDL drivers and also continue to build meaningful relationships between schools and employers.”
Representatives from several local trucking companies took part in a CDL Career Talk at Perham High School earlier this year, sharing professional advice and CDL career options with students. Many of those companies are now partnering with the school to sponsor students’ behind-the-wheel training and/or to
offer immediate employment to those who complete the training.
“There is zero chance that these students will not have jobs when they graduate,” says Glynn. “There’s just such a high demand right now.”
Already, “Road to CDL” is changing lives. Carson Byer, a Perham High School senior enrolled in CDL Theory, says, “Being able to work on my CDL license while still in high school has got me excited about my future career path. I now know what I want to do after I graduate.”
“Learning about trucks and mechanics is what really interests me,” adds Jaxon Vetsch. “Studying for CDL is my favorite part of the day.”
M State offers Class A and Class B CDL training programs to the public. For more information about those programs, email CDL@minnesota.edu or call the college’s WDS division at 218.846.3733.