The Truist Foundation has given a $1 million grant to Trident Technical College, setting plans into motion for the college’s new Truist Transportation and Logistics Center at its Berkeley campus in Moncks Corner.
This is the first part in Trident Tech’s multiphase plan for renovation of its 38-year-old campus into a high-tech training facility. The entire project will cost $32 million.
“This grant is a wonderful beginning of a very large renovation,” said Meg Howle, Trident Tech’s vice president for advancement. “We’re so appreciative that we’ve got this initial funding, and it’ll go a long way, but there’s so much more that the workforce training needs.”
The grant was given on a one-time basis. Truist Market President Mark Lattanzio said Trident Technical College was chosen because its goals aligned with the foundation’s core values.
“We focus ourselves on four pillars, one being building career pathways to economic mobility, which is what we’ve seen Trident Technical College do in the past with its nursing program,…the aeronautical training center,” Lattanzio said. “They’re once again providing education and training for a workforce that, as we’ve seen especially in the pandemic, desperately needs workers.”
In space that has opened up since the creation of Trident Tech’s aeronautical training center, the college will use funds to provide a nine-week course in commercial driver’s license training beginning this fall. Broken into three segments of classroom learning, practicing on campus property, then driving on the real road, the program aims to start a new cohort of students every three weeks.
The pace is meant to put people to work quickly and immediately, said Cathy Almquist, Trident Tech’s vice president for education. Though rigorous, the program will be offered during the daytime and evenings, with financial aid options available to students, regardless of whether they’re taking it for credit.
“There simply are not enough drivers out there in CDL, so this is going to be a place where we can fill a desperate need on both ends of the spectrum,” Almquist said. “There are people who need to get a good-paying job as soon as possible, and meanwhile, we’ve got employers all through our three counties that are desperate for CDL drivers.”
Once the program is up and running, Trident Tech estimates that they’ll be able to produce more than 180 commercially licensed drivers a year, Almquist said.
This program comes at a time when the shortage of commercial drivers is acute. According to Trident Tech’s research behind the project, there are currently 1,000-2,000 driver jobs left unfilled in the state, with a projected 2,000-4,000 more opening within ﬁve years.
Howle attributes an increase in jobs to the fact that the manufacturing sector has increased in the region, setting up a domino effect in the needs for delivery, transportation and supply chain management.
Almost 80% of South Carolina communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods, according to the S.C. Trucking Association. Between larger companies and the state’s 7,960 smaller, family-owned businesses, a total of 82% of manufactured tonnage is transported by trucks.
Howle said she expects a large influx of demand, especially with the additions of the new Dorchester County Walmart distribution center and the Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal, as well as the Volvo, Mercedes and Boeing plants.
“The whole goal here is to create a pipeline providing for the workforce for an expanded economy in our area and to be ready with a building that can accommodate the types of training advanced manufacturers need,” Howle said. “The pandemic has only made this need even more critical, and for all of those things to grow and to thrive and to feed our economy, they have to have a workforce.”
In addition to the Truist Foundation grant, Trident Tech has also obtained a small part of the state-required 20% in local matches through $1 million provided by Berkeley County, a private donation of $100,000 and funds from the college. They will continue to seek local and private funding, as well as $25.6 million from the state to reach the full $32 million goal.
Further plans once funds are obtained include new labs and equipment, space for career exploration and indirect purchasing outreach events, diesel mechanic training, supply chain management programs and expanding cybersecurity and IT education.