Tri-C’s Transportation Innovation Center Gets a needed Boost
Located in the city of Euclid, in a parkway off Euclid Avenue, is Cuyahoga Community College’s Transportation Innovation Center. Here, students looking for a career in anything from operating forklifts to driving buses and 18-wheelers can take courses and earn the necessary certifications and licenses. Last month, the Innovation Center received two more vehicles: a pair of motorcoaches donated by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to Tri-C.
The two donated motorcoaches were previously used on RTA’s route between Strongsville and downtown Cleveland, according to Ian Wilson, director at the Transportation Innovation Center. The donation will help the center’s capabilities according to Wilson, who has been with Tri-C for 15 years and helped set up the CDL program. “According to state regulations, we could only have two students per vehicle.” he explained. “Previously we only had one bus, so we could only train two at any time. Now having three gives us an opportunity to train six students at on time.” Wilson further explained that the Transportation Center, which already helps train RTA employees, would have a better opportunity to offer to the wider Cuyahoga County community.
“They’re going to help because we’ll be able to assist RTA in training their new employees and providing more opportunities for training, and hopefully maybe testing purposes in the long run.” said Jason Kamp, a CDL trainer at the innovation center.
Tri-C’s CDL program has come a long way since its inception, starting in a different area around the corner before moving to its current location in 2018. “We started down the road in a rented facility, which was not to the standards that Tri-C would normally operate out of, for ten years.” explained Wilson. “Then we had a capital bond levy, and this is where [the site] got purchased and developed.” According to Wilson, the development, which included a simulated warehouse for forklift learners, was a 5-million-dollar project.
Tri-C began permit training for RTA six years ago, and currently holds a class every two weeks on an on-contract basis, according to Wilson. In addition, the Innovation Center, which has an onsite state CDL testing site, also rents out vehicles to people to test on. “It helps to have vehicles available, to help individuals within the community get a license.” says Wilson.
Kamp says that he has seen interest in CDL training become increasingly diverse. “I’ve seen people from those having master’s Degrees to people just out of high school become interested in driving and working in the transportation industry just because there’s so many opportunities available.” Since COVID, the Transportation Innovation Center has held job fairs with multiple companies coming to meet current CDL students. Kamp believes that the short training time and fast opportunity for high wages is helping to spur interest and participation in the program. “We just had a Dot Foods recruiter that just came in here to meet the current class. That recruiter stated that those students can make $90,000 in their first year out of truck driving school.” Kamp explained. “So I don’t know many other industries that can offer five weeks of training and [have students] making that kind of salary after their first year.”
Kamp said that the Innovation Center hoped to find more trainers so they can restart evening and weekend classes, which were offered before the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also interested in getting more truck drivers currently in the industry involved in classes to help students learn.
For now, Wilson is focused on offering further programs at the Innovation Center, such as an entry-level diesel technician program. He said that he’d reached out to Tri-C about this, who has allegedly agreed to donate a bus once the program is ready.
When asked what could help the Innovation Center, Wilson mentioned more support staff to raise awareness. “We don’t really advertise because word of mouth is the best advertisement that we have, but one person can only do so much enrollment and processing each day.” He explained. “Being able to develop further is about having sufficient staff, and not just administrative but instructional staff, to be able to support the development.”