TORRINGTON – Long-haul trucking has long been memorialized in song and on film.
Independent drivers, plying the highways and byways of the nation, bringing much needed supplies and more than a few luxury items to businesses from coast to coast.
Soon, under a new program in the works among a consortium of Wyoming community colleges – including Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington – some of those drivers will be Lancers.
On Tuesday, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Heidi Edmunds and Donna White, associate director for Workforce Development and Community Education at EWC, gave the college’s board of trustees an overview of the new program.
Building on grants from the Wyoming Works Program, EWC hopes to team up with Laramie County Community College and Northwest College to offer Commercial Drivers License certification training through the three entities.
Wyoming Works was adopted by the 2019 Wyoming Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Gordon. It allocated a total of $5 million – $3 million for individual grants to students with the remaining $2 million available to finance program development at the state’s seven community colleges.
The focus of Wyoming Works is to provide programs and resources for adult students to learn employable skills, according to the website, communitycolleges.wy.edu/wyoming-works-program/. Currently, there are 17 programs at EWC where students are eligible for individual, $1,680 grants, Edmunds told the board.
“Starting this summer, the (Wyoming Community College Commission) began approving emergency rules to approve student funding for Wyoming Works,” she said.
The commission then released rules last month, spelling out the process for funding requests. Expenses that can be covered by the grants include salary for instructors, equipment and instructional materials for the new or existing programs, Edmunds said.
The projected funding requests for the CDL program at the three community colleges is almost $1.3 million. Eastern Wyoming College’s share of that request is $444,000. Wyoming Works grants require a match by the requesting institution, White told the board. EWC share would be $148,000 for two years funding, if the requests are approved.
Edmunds said the match can be paid in either the first or second year or split between the two years of the program. The match can also be “in-kind” – office space, facilities or other non-monetary contributions from the college – White said.
The college opted to go with a consortium of three community colleges for the program for several reasons, including financial, White said. The WCCC recommends colleges across the state combine their efforts where possible, increasing their chances for funding approval. And a consortium opens the door for sharing of instructors and other program expenses, White said.
“Significant priority is given to programs in consortia with other colleges,” Edmunds said.
White said they hope to launch the program in the spring. But that depends on grant approval, funding availability and additional factors, she said.
EWC technically already has CDL training as a for-credit program in its catalogue. But there haven’t been students enrolled in the program for a few years, White and Edmunds said. The new program would be non-credit, they said.
The previous CDL program was also funded by grants, White told the board. Funding dried up two years ago, she said, because there weren’t enough students.
But the future for this program looks brighter, White said. She’s already been in contact with local trucking companies, which have expressed interest in future graduates, for example.
“This could be a wonderful program,” Trustee Tom John McCreery said. “Trucking companies can’t keep enough drivers.”
EWC President Dr. Leslie agreed, noting CDL certification training was one of the programs requested by residents during recent listening sessions hosted around the region.
“When we first heard about the Wyoming Works program, we were excited,” Travers said. “For us to be even considered for funding, we need to partner with other colleges. (CDL training) was by far the best option for us.”
In other business, the board:
• Approved the monthly financial report by Kwin Wilkes, vice president for administrative service. Wilkes noted a 6 percent decrease in local tax revenue for the month of October 2019 compared to the same period last year.
Overall funding increased by 23 percent, however, due primarily to tuition and fee increases approved by trustees last year.
• Approved the appointment of Jim Willox to be the advisory member to the EWC board from Converse County. The vote confirmed Willox’s appointment by the Converse County Commissioners.
• Accepted the resignation of Kelly Joppa from the position of College and Career Readiness Instructor.
• Accepted the resignation of Human Resources Director Crystal Smith, effective Nov. 8.
• Approved appointment of Carlee Russell as College and Career Readiness Instructor.
• Approved Brandon Wilson to math instructor, with a scheduled start date of Jan. 9, 2020.
• Recognized the EWC Golf and Volleyball teams for their performances during their seasons.