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Road to Success: Western Iowa Tech and Business Partner Work to Solve a Truck Driver Shortage

Jebro Inc. presents donation to WITCC to help pay for renovations of the college's Cargill Auditorium
Jebro Inc. Rod Birdsell
Jebro Inc. presents donation to WITCC to help pay for renovations of the college's Cargill Auditorium

Western Iowa Tech Community College received a $10,000 check from Jebro Inc. this week to help spruce up the sound and lighting system at the Cargill Auditorium on campus. The partnership between the two organizations also works to fill a critical shortage of workers.

The Human Resources Director of Jebro Inc., Rod Birdsell, says his company relies on employees with essential skills.

Jebro Inc.'s Rod Birdsell
Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer
Jebro Inc.'s Rod Birdsell

“The biggest part of our employment is drivers, and we have been short for the past three years.”

For Jebro, those drivers keep business rolling smoothly throughout the United States.

“We modify liquid asphalt, make sure it meets specs for the road constructions. And then Knife River builds the roads.”

Wilson says statistics from the Iowa Motor Truck Association show more than half of all truckers are over 45, with another quarter getting closer to retirement age.

“It is a very older based business occupation right now, and they are looking at so many people retiring plus with COVID people got burnout because the truckers were running through that period all along.”

“There's not a company out there that doesn't have a shortage of truck drivers.”

That’s Carmen Wilson, The Associate Dean of Western Iowa Tech Community College’s Corporate College that oversees the truck driving program.

WITCC's Carmen Wilson at the Cargill Auditorium
Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer
WITCC's Carmen Wilson at the Cargill Auditorium

“So, most of our students come in who have never driven a truck. They have never been behind a 53-foot trailer. We are teaching them to drive within a four-week period, get their license. And then they go on with the company and get more one-on-one training before they're actually released to the public by themselves. But it's a great foundation to get them started. And it helps to feed the pipeline.”

Wilson says Western Iowa Tech trains more than 100 hundred students annually and helps find jobs for 98% of graduates, including positions at Jebro.

“We do recruit out there and have a close relationship with the Corporate College; they come out to our facility to help with corporate training, leadership training, they've got a great, great amount of training that you can use here. And it's reasonable, and it's a great relationship,” said Birdsell.

A collaboration that is putting future truck driver on the road to success.

“There is not a company out there that's not paying between $19 and $25 or $26 an hour for local drivers. And if you're willing to go over the road, your dollars are going to go up substantially from there,” said Wilson.

News release from Western Iowa Tech Community College:

Check Presentation for Auditorium Renovations at Held Western Iowa Tech Today

Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) will be receiving a grant in the amount of $10,000 to remodel the College’s auditorium. The grant is funded by MDU Resources Group, Inc., a parent company of Knife River Corporation and Jebro, Inc.. There will be a check presentation today, August 31st at 11:00 a.m. in front of the auditorium (parking lot 4, entrance 14).

The funds will support the upgrade of both the lighting and sound systems to modernize the space and increase its functionality for the College and community.

The two-hundred seat auditorium was built in 1993 and has regularly hosted College events such as Teen Drivers Education, Lifelong Learning educational and recreational offerings as well as credit courses. The venue extends beyond the College to support the Siouxland community; the auditorium has hosted events such as Sioux City Police Department ceremonies, Department of Transportation training, workforce development panel discussions, and musical performances. The space enhances WITCC’s engagement with the community and provides an ideal indoor space for large group presentations and events.

After nearly thirty years of active and extensive use, the WITCC auditorium is in need of a refresh to replace seating, carpeting, wall surfaces, lighting, and the sound system. These upgrades will modernize the auditorium and will make it a more inviting and user-friendly space for the College and community partners.