Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The CDL program, which frequently pairs students and instructors inside the cab, is one of the most popular offered by Virginia’s Community Colleges.

Jimmy Stipes was one of 96 employees laid-off when Alpha Natural Resources closed three coal mines in Dickenson County in 2015. Stipes and his wife were left living off of unemployment for 26 weeks and few options. The day he met Darla Brown at Mountain Empire Community College changed all of that. Brown helps those who have been recently laid-off to enter into training programs. Thanks to a grant from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission as part of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative, Stipes was able to enroll in the Tri-County Driving Academy, a training program that works in partnership with Mountain Empire Community College to earn his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The Tobacco Commission grant covered 75% of this credential, a total of $3,525, which Stipes hadn’t the means to cover on his own. Stipes earned his CDL Class A learners last fall and within 60 days, he was employed with Maverick Trucking.

Southwest Virginia has been hit hard with closures and companies reducing their workforce, such as Highlands Drilling. Coal mines and oil drilling companies offer workers a good income that is difficult to replace in our most rural areas. CDL truck driving is a viable option – one of the few available in the area – but the $4,700 price tag is way beyond the means of most of the laid-off workers. The Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative in partnership with The Tobacco Commission is helping to close that gap.'

Virginia's Community Colleges

Created more than 50 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 270,000 students a year in credit and workforce courses.

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