CDL Driver Demand Example of Opportunities Despite High Unemployment
Windham County, VT – On Monday, October 5th transportation employers, regional and state workforce partners, and local legislators gathered virtually for a press event hosted by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC). The event highlighted a need for skilled CDL-certified workers, and the range of opportunities available to jobseekers interested in transportation careers.
Last fall a new research initiative was launched to understand employers’ need for skilled workers, and assess opportunities available to the local workforce. The BDCC’s Workforce Center of Excellence and Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) created the Hiring Needs Assessment (HNA) series to gather specific data from local employers that would inform workforce training and education programs. Each HNA surveys employers directly to look at workforce needs within one occupational area. In the past year BDCC & SeVEDS issued three HNA reports covering bookkeeping & administration, manufacturing & production, and positions requiring a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). Over time, the surveys together are helping workforce partners deepen their overall understanding of southeastern Vermont’s “real time” workforce needs.
The recent CDL-Driver survey was submitted to 40 public and private-sector employers as well as the garage foremen of each Windham Region town. The 18 respondents currently employ a total of 76 CDL personnel. Their projected demand for workers over the next five years is an additional 78 personnel – a hiring challenge equal to replacing over 100% of their current staffing. BDCC estimates the total 5-year regional demand for CDL Drivers will be two to three times this amount, given the known staffing needs among employers who did not respond.
“There are several types of CDL drivers – over-the-road truckers, construction, public transit, etc.,” said Randy Schoonmaker, Southeast Vermont Transit (SEVT) CEO. “For public transit we are not so much looking for drivers as we are looking for people. We can teach the driving skills and help with the testing. But we want people who like to help others and make a difference in their lives, and the CDL training comes secondary.”
One reason CDL Drivers were chosen as a target occupation for the study is that starting wages are high compared to service-sector positions – $18-28 per hour. These jobs are also available to people with a high school degree, and currently only 34% of Windham youth obtain a college degree within 4 years of graduating high school. Demand is growing because of retirements in the CDL workforce: 64% are 45 years old or older. Finally, CDL Driver demand seemed to remain consistent during the pandemic, even as unemployment in sectors like hospitality, healthcare and retail spiked. The HNA survey bore this out, showing less than a third of employers experiencing downsizing or layoffs.
A significant obstacle to hiring CDL Drivers during the pandemic was a shutdown of public-facing services at Vermont’s Department of Motor Vehicles. In May, the owner of Windham region’s only commercial CDL training facility indicated there were 40 positions ready to be filled by employers across the region, but that students could not complete the CDL test due to reduced DMV operations. This bottleneck intensified competition among employers, making it especially hard for organizations that provide essential services like municipalities, non-profits, and public transportation. Thus, the implications of a CDL Driver shortage go well beyond the health of the economy.
There is a need for CDL Drivers statewide and this occupation was featured in the most recent Vermont Department of Labor Virtual Job Fair. Among employers showcased were several hiring in this region including The Moover, VT Agency of Transportation, TravelKuz and Adventure Limo. VT DOL #Hiring2DayVT events are designed to connect jobseekers with jobs available today.
The Hiring Needs Assessments are designed to provide an overview of current and near-term demand within occupations offering “good jobs” – jobs that provide high growth, opportunities for advancement, strong wages and a chance build skills and qualifications. This research is part of BDCC’s Workforce Center of Excellence work to improve the region’s talent pipeline by engaging young people entering the workforce, helping existing workers to re-skill, and supporting the in-migration of qualified individuals to reverse the current trend of a shrinking labor force.
For more information please view all three HNA reports on the BDCC website at https://brattleborodevelopment.com/publications/.
Adam Grinold, Executive Director
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation
The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation is a private, nonprofit economic development organization that serves as a catalyst for industrial and commercial growth throughout Southeastern Vermont, including Windham County and the towns of Readsboro, Searsburg, Winhall and Weston. BDCC serves as the State of Vermont’s certified Regional Development Corporation (RDC) for the greater Windham County area. BDCC is one of 12 RDCs throughout Vermont. This BDCC activity was made possible in part by a grant from the State of Vermont through the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. For more information visit: https://brattleborodevelopment.com/
Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) is an affiliate of BDCC that grew from a 2008 grassroots effort, initiated by BDCC, to understand and create long term strategies needed to reverse the economic decline of the Windham Region and plan for the economic impacts from the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In 2014, after multiple years of regional input, education and data gathering, SeVEDS received federal approval for the Windham Region’s federally recognized S.M.A.R.T. Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). SeVEDS partnered with Bennington’s Regional Economic Development Group in 2018 to develop the 2019 Southern Vermont Zone CEDS. For more information visit: www.seveds.com
The Southern Vermont Workforce Center of Excellence is a program of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) which offers an employer-driven system of Workforce and Education partners aligned behind grassroots workforce development strategies that will increase the size and quality of the workforce, raise median household incomes. It was created through SeVEDS comprehensive planning CEDS process, which engaged residents, employers, and municipalities throughout the Windham Region. The vision of the Center is that every Vermonter in Windham County has access to the education, training, and support needed to access meaningful, livable wage careers, so that no good job goes unfilled.