Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) will receive $1.5 Million to help alleviate the shortage of CDL-certified truck drivers in the state.
Governor DeSantis made the announcement while visiting Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.
“These investments are driving the growth of our rural communities and the state as a whole,” Governor DeSantis said.
The improvements will take place at the college’s Chautauqua Campus in DeFuniak Springs and will include a large purchase of equipment to help increase the number of students who can take the class.
The additional funding, which will come from the state coffers, means NWFSC and other state colleges in Florida will be able to churn out a total of 3,500 CDL-certified drivers every year. As late as 2019, the entire state permitted only 1,000 new CDL drivers every year.
“This funding will do a lot to alleviate the skilled workforce shortage we see here in northwest Florida,” said Nathan Boyles, an Okaloosa County Commissioner.
Boyles also serves as an executive at Adams Sanitation, a local trash hauler which relies on CDL drivers to pick up trash.
“Having an expanded workforce to hire from means more economic development for our area and better jobs for the people who already live here.”
Boyles, a Northwest Florida State College Alumnus, said that the expansion also meets the college’s mission to serve the community in Okaloosa and Walton Counties.
In addition to the money coming to Okaloosa County for CDL Driver education, the governor also announced about $12 million for Florida state colleges to stand up or expand registered apprenticeships in the trades and $200,000 for Careersource Okaloosa Walton to fund the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The United States, and the State of Florida face a serious shortage of truck drivers. According to trucking company Redwood Logistics, we face a shortage of more than 330,000 drivers by 2024. Redwood says that there are several major issues that factor into our impending trucker shortage.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average age of the truck driver is 55 years old. “An alarming amount of truck drivers are retiring in the next 10-20 years,” Redwood says. IRU.org says that the next generation is not filling those slots: only about 6% of the workforce in trucking is under the age of 25. Additionally, their report warns, fully a third of truck drivers are over the age of 55.
Furthermore, only six percent of truck drivers are women – which means that the workforce pools has been thinned of half of the workforce, potentially unnecessarily. Finally, Redwood says the gap between the age of maturity (18) and when a worker can earn a CDL (21) means there are three years where a workforce member in Okaloosa County or anywhere else in the country can find literally anything else to do with their life.
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