EACC is delivering CDL training to high school students for the first time ever in Arkansas, and Forrest City High School student Jaquize Green is the first to complete the program and receive a CDL license.
"We think this program can be a model for the state. It could make a significant contribution to alleviating the state's shortage of drivers," said Dr. Cathie Cline, President at EACC.
Jaquize Green is the first Arkansas high school student to successfully complete a college Commercial Driver Training program. He earned his Class A commercial driver's license. This week. Even more outstanding, Green made history by completing his CDL training while also surviving aplastic anemia thanks to the treatment he received at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"Never give up, never lose hope, and always be passionate about what you are going for," said Jaquize Green. "I thought this program would be good to learn and I am looking forward to the job opportunities that will be provided with my CDL license," he added.
"We have created a new pathway that had not been tried before in an effort to meet job demand. We recognized the same old strategies were not working--we had to do something new to help open up a new supply of drivers," said Dr. Cline.
To support the program, EACC added a full-time instructor, an additional driving range, and is covering all the fuel and maintenance costs, as well as the cost of licensure testing. The total institutional contribution to the high school CDL training program is valued at approximately $250,000-$300,000.
"EACC began the high school training with no additional funding. We hope that in the future, its value will be recognized with workforce training dollars and industry partners," Cline added.
Trained Class-A CDL drivers are one of the highest in-demand occupations statewide and in EACC's service area. Regional salaries range from $30,000 to a high of $70,000, with a typical wage running between $40,000-$50,000.
"The commercial driver shortage in the United States continues to impede our economic growth. The empty retail shelves and long wait times for online purchases are great examples of the impact of this shortage. The only solution is to find new pathways for trained, entry level drivers," said Robert Summers, EACC Vice President for Vocational, Occupational, and Technical Education.
"We are confident that the model we are developing at EACC will be part of the solution and expect other schools to follow our lead soon," he said.
The program was piloted in the fall through a partnership between Forrest City High School and East Arkansas Community College. Students earn both high school and college credit, receiving a Certificate of Proficiency in Commercial Driver Training, and are ready to be employed upon graduation from high school and passing the CDL licensure test.
"This program demonstrates the importance of community colleges. We know our community needs, have strong, established partnerships, and have the flexibility to adapt our training to those needs. Partnering with high schools to ensure their students are job ready when they graduate is one of the strengths of community colleges," said Summers.
"We are excited to be a part of such a historic moment. The Forrest City School District is proud of Mr. Green and our partnership with EACC. The program is a game changer for our community and our students. We look forward to more innovative partnerships in the future," said Dr. Tiffany Hardrick, Forrest City School District Superintendent.
The high school program lasts the entire semester to enhance safety and provide thorough instruction. The program is open to 18-year-old students who are screened into the program.
Jaquize Green with EACC CDT Instructor Everette Woods