Tri-C’s new Transportation Innovation Center puts focus on logistics industry
Industry reports and federal employment data show the high demand for truck drivers in this country. So do the calls and text messages that continually buzz the cell phone of Natasha Williams.
Companies began reaching out to Williams soon after she started truck driving classes at the new Transportation Innovation Center (TIC) at Cuyahoga Community College. She said she lost track of the number of job offers she received.
“Look at this,” the 38-year-old from Westlake said while scrolling through a chain of text messages from a regional trucking company. “Every day my phone rings with an offer. Every day.”
The interest reflects a basic fact: Truck drivers represent a driving force in the U.S. economy. Approximately 70 percent of the nation’s freight rolls over highways to reach consumers. That doesn’t happen without skilled drivers behind the wheel.
The Transportation Innovation Center in Euclid — which opened in January — reflects the College’s efforts to meet that workforce need while expanding programs within the supply chain and logistics industry.
“The economy relies on our ability to efficiently move materials and products,” said William Gary, executive vice president of the College’s Workforce, Community and Economic Development division. “Without skilled personnel, the entire process breaks down.”
Tri-C launched forklift operator classes in February and immediately filled the first session. The course equips workers with the expertise demanded for jobs in fast-paced warehouses — places like the Amazon facility located a mile away from the College’s new site.
Students learn how to maneuver narrow-aisle forklifts between the rows of towering shelves packed into pick-and-ship fulfillment centers. The College’s new center includes a warehouse space dedicated to hands-on training.
The TIC also includes space for a diesel engine technician program, expected to begin in 2020. Tools and massive lifts already fill the cavernous bay area filled with some of the big rigs used for truck driving classes.
Which brings us back to the central program at the new center.
The College opened its Truck Driving Academy more than a decade ago at a smaller site in Euclid. Nearly 1,000 graduates have earned their commercial driver’s license (CDL) through the program.
Demand for more training led the College to seek out a new location. Voter approval of Tri-C’s bond issue request in November 2017 made the move possible.
The new center offers a technologically advanced training home for the next generation of drivers. Interactive classrooms and a simulator featuring a 180-degree windshield view connect students to the most up-to-date information in the industry.
Acres of asphalt outside the building provide ample space for behind-the-wheel practice. Four tractor-trailers can be on the driving pad at one time.
A state CDL testing office — one of only 16 in Ohio — also operates at the center.
The overall package of programs and services available at the TIC is unique in the industry, said Ian Wilson, director of the center.
“Nobody else has what we’re offering here at Tri-C,” Wilson said. “The idea is to look at the whole logistics cycle. We’re keeping pace with an evolving industry and getting people ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
March 28, 2019
John Horton, 216-987-4281 or firstname.lastname@example.org