News Release

Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Representatives of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) have been working together to address workforce needs in the state’s trucking industry. The partnership has produced results and is getting national attention.

Sandra Schmit, education director for Transportation and Electronics for the WTCS, and Kathy Heady, of the WEDC, will travel to Washington, D.C. April 24 to lead discussions at the National Transportation Workforce Summit.

Schmit and Heady will facilitate discussions on college programming, continuing education, under-represented populations in transportation and connecting workforce programs with training. They represent a public/private consortium working to increase the visibility of trucking as a career, build training capacity, and identify funding to offset the cost of training.

The partnership produced a white paper entitled, A Public-Private Partnership to Grow the Trucking Industry Workforce in Wisconsin, which will be presented at the Summit.

“I am thrilled to share our experiences and learn what other states are doing to address the transportation workforce needs,” Schmit said.

According to the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, one out of every 15 jobs or 7 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce is employed in the trucking industry. Through the recent recession, the need for drivers remained strong and companies continue to seek qualified drivers. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Economic Advisors projects over the road truck drivers as one of the fastest growing occupations in Wisconsin.

There is also a need for diesel technicians. The trucking partnership projects a demand for 400 technicians a year. Locally, Western Technical College is one of ten Wisconsin technical colleges to offer education in diesel equipment technology, which teaches about new technology in the big rigs, including complex electronics, remote diagnostic equipment and idle controls.

“Western has an active program advisory committee made up of district diesel and heavy equipment industry representatives to assist faculty in staying current with local industry needs,” said Rich Westpfahl, Western’s dean of Industrial Technologies.

Diesel equipment mechanics from the colleges have a median salary of more than $33,000 and diesel and power train servicing technicians are earning more than $49,000 immediately following college.

“In three to six months you can be making really good money,” Schmit added. “These are good choices for dislocated workers.” The consortium is particularly interested in recruiting military veterans. Trucking companies appreciate skills required in military service.

The consortium has worked well to address the needs of employers and will continue to collaborate with hopes of including more trucking companies. Other industry sectors are beginning to follow this model to address workforce and other industry-identified issues.

The Wisconsin Technical College System has 16 technical college districts throughout the state, which offer more than 300 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas. In addition, the System is the major provider of customized training and technical assistance to Wisconsin’s business and industry. More than half of all adults in Wisconsin have accessed the technical colleges for education and training. Find more about educational programs at www.witechcolleges.org.