by Michael J. Hinz
Vice President, Driver Recruiting, Schneider National Inc.
As America slowly pulls itself out of a recession, high unemployment levels remain in many areas. But there is at least one industry in the U.S., one I am most familiar with, that is growing and has a shortage of workers: trucking.
Many industry analysts project the current shortage of truck drivers at 130,000 nationally, and growing. The truck driver shortage will continue to grow due to a number of reasons, primarily a large number of upcoming retirements and the fact that more drivers will be needed to haul more goods as the economy rebounds. More than 70 percent of freight in the U.S. is delivered to retailers and manufacturers by truck. Just about everything you buy, consume, use or wear is delivered by a truck driver.
Building a strong pipeline of skilled workers must be a priority for businesses; our future growth and success depends on it. That is why Schneider National recently joined forces with Olive-Harvey College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, to take a major step toward reversing this trend and replenishing the ranks of commercial drivers and transportation professionals in Illinois.
Truck driving jobs today are not what they once were, when drivers were gone for weeks at a time driving uncomfortable trucks. In fact, 75 percent of Schneider National's drivers get home at least weekly. Schneider's drivers also operate state-of-the-art trucks with in-cab technology that provides Internet access and detailed directions to pick-up/delivery locations at the touch of a finger.
In six to eight weeks, students at the City Colleges of Chicago can go from unemployed or underemployed to great new careers that offer complete benefits, retirement plans and steady paychecks -- earning $50,000 or more per year in a short time. For a relatively small investment of time and tuition, students can earn credentials for a job that is in high demand, can never be outsourced and has room for advancement. (See the video below profiling Kenneth Washington, a recent Olive-Harvey graduate and a new Schneider driver.) Many drivers move on and become small business owners by purchasing their own truck and leasing with a trucking company such as Schneider as an owner-operator. A new job that is in high demand with a great chance for immediate placement after graduating, benefits, great pay and the opportunity for advancement to a small business owner... now that's the American Dream.
Our partnership with community colleges is growing and we are excited to be part of something new. Schneider National, along with other transportation leaders, is currently working with City Colleges of Chicago to create a new standard in quality transportation training and education. The new Transportation, Distribution & Logistics Center at the City Colleges of Chicago will be a prototype for training in our industry. Preparing students for careers in ground, air and rail transport, multi-modal distribution and logistics, it will be the first comprehensive education center for the transportation industry in Illinois.
Industry experts working in the field, including Schneider National, will visit the new center to help teach and train students. Industry partners are also well positioned to offer tools and equipment that might be a challenge to come by otherwise. For example, Schneider has donated a truck for student practice. These investments will ensure lesson plans stay current and match the needs and conditions of the industry. Students will learn skills that can be used in multiple career pathways.
As an industry, we cannot sit back and wait for these opportunities to be handed to us. We must get out there and work with community colleges to ensure we have the workforce we need to thrive and grow. We must also have the facilities and programs needed to offer continuing education to our workers so they can move up the career ladder.
There are hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs available in trucking today. We need these private/public partnerships to help put Americans back to work so they can provide for themselves and their families.
To learn more about Schneider National's job opportunities, visit www.schneiderjobs.com or call 1-800-44-PRIDE.