C-GCC Offers Free Class B License Training | Greene County

GREENPORT — Columbia-Greene Community College is partnering with the Columbia-Greene Workforce NY Career Center to offer free Class B commercial driver’s license training certification courses to students who qualify for financial aid.

Classes begin on Saturdays and consist of 92 hours of classroom training and 27 hours of on-road training during weekend sessions.

According to Chris Nardone, director of Columbia-Greene Workforce NY, a necessity in the market made courses a natural fit.

“One of the main reasons was the shortage of bus drivers,” Nardone said of where the courses originated. “That’s what started the discussion. There is a real need in our region for commercial drivers. We have many transport and logistics companies in the region. Additionally, the county DOTs need plow drivers and salt truck drivers. There hasn’t been training available in our area forever.

The program was set up by Columbia-Greene Workforce NY Career Center in conjunction with the college.

A dozen students signed up for the course, with more applicants placed on a waiting list due to high demand for the courses.

“We fund people who are financially eligible, who meet our eligibility criteria,” said Jeanette O’Neil, associate director of Columbia-Greene Workforce NY. “The courses cost us money, they just don’t cost our clients money if they meet our grant eligibility.”

Nardone said funding for the program is provided by federal funding from the Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act through the state Department of Labor.

The director of Columbia-Greene Workforce NY said that for the next round of training, the career center would contact Columbia and Greene counties to possibly help fund the initiative.

“I’m sure if we knew in advance how much demand there really was in the county, I’m sure the counties would be willing to participate,” Nardone said Friday. “The cost is substantial to train 12 to 15 people.”

Class B training does not apply to school bus drivers, a position that requires additional certification. A Class B license is required for drivers operating a vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds or carrying 24 or more passengers.

“In February, the federal government changed the regulations, and now anyone who wants to obtain a CDL license must go through a certified training provider,” Nardone said. “You can’t put in those hours at work like before. So we thought it was important to bring training to the area, so that companies could fill some of these positions and we could also train qualified people so that they could earn a better salary.

Nardone said the organization plans to offer another round of trainings in the fall.

“He was very popular,” he said. “We had contacted some companies that we know needed drivers and gave them the opportunity if they had employees interested in a CDL-B that we could help fill some of those positions that they had. Then we went to see the general public and it was very popular.

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Milton S. Rodgers