April 12–Sampson Community College’s truck driver training facility is one step closer to reality after grant funds from the Golden LEAF have been awarded to the institute.
Noted high on the needs list at the college, the projected cost for the facility is $1.55 million. In October, the college was awarded more than $1 million in grant funds from the United States Department of Commerce, allowing the college to re-allocate some of the Connect NC Bond funds to the new truck driver training facility.
According to Lisa Turlington, executive director for the Sampson Community College Foundation and executive assistant to the president for advancement, the $200,000 Golden LEAF grant will be added to the $1.3 million from the Connect NC Bond funds and a $50,000 local pledge.
“This project is a great example of local and state partners working to expand occupational training to support local industry,” Turlington said. “Sampson Community College will leverage the federal funds awarded for the welding building with state, local and private funding to expand the truck driver training program that has an exceptional reputation in industry.”
Sampson’s truck driver training program has graduated more than 700 students, with 200 enrolled and another 200 on a waiting list. Additionally, according to Turlington, the college has placed students in over 50 national and local businesses including Ezzell Trucking, Nash Johnson Farms, Prestage Farms, Smithfield Foods, and Sampson-Bladen Oil.
“All students have job offers upon completion of the program,” Turlington explained. “Moving the training site from Duplin County will improve efficiencies for our students and faculty that will allow more drivers to be trained.”
Just two months ago, the Clinton 100 Committee donated a parcel of land to the college to be utilized for the school’s new facility. The 12-acre plot is located in the Sampson Southeastern Business and allows for the program to move from its current location in the Ag Provision parking lot.
The new site, according to Foundation members, will allow more students to be enrolled at one time.
“The improved efficiencies of a local site should allow enrollment of 250-300 annually and will allow for expansion to include an industry requested Class B licensing program,” Chuck Spell explained, Clinton 100 Committee chairman and college trustee, said. “The majority of the students are hired before the class is completed, making an average wage of $50,000 per year. The program has eight tractors and four faculty for this training.”
Local industries like Ezzell Trucking have verbally expressed their appreciation for the expansion of the much-needed program.
“The new facility will allow the Sampson Community College’s truck driving school to provide a larger, more efficient training space for the staff and students,” Grover Ezzell, CEO of Ezzell Trucking and Sampson Community College Foundation director, said. “Additionally, students will not have to travel so far away from the community college. It will also help to recruit more students for the program.”
The truck driver training program started in 2007 with assistance through a grant from Golden LEAF and partnerships through Ezzell Trucking, Smithfield Foods, Prestage Farms and Ag Provision. Those businesses provided tractors, trailers, a training field and essential maintenance equipment and supplies. According to Turlington, the program will afford students a route to good careers in an industry that tops the list of the most common jobs across the state.
Having the facility close to the college’s main campus, SCC president Dr. Bill Starling said, opens the doors of opportunity that are available to the college and Sampson County.
“The new facility will provide an opportunity for the development of related training in heavy equipment operation and repair,” Starling said. “The trustees extend their thanks to the committee and the local business and industry that expressed support for this project.”
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