MOOREFIELD, W.Va. – Eddie Mullenax, one of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program instructors at Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, stood at the podium and said he wanted to share part of a text message he recently had received from a former student.
The student, who earned a CDL Class A license earlier in the fall, had texted that he was standing out among the new hires at his company because he was proficient in specific driving skills, and the former student wanted to thank Mullenax for helping him reach those goals.
For many in the audience listening to Mullenax, this account was affirmation that the year’s efforts to grow and improve the Class A CDL training program at Eastern were paying off and, like Mullenax’s former student, the program was meeting important goals.
Megan Webb, dean of advancement and continuing education at Eastern, had preceded Mullenax at the podium and welcomed several program partners and community leaders to the celebratory event and luncheon held Dec. 14 at Eastern’s campus in Moorefield. The luncheon was planned to mark significant CDL training program milestones and thank supporters, many of whom were present in the audience.
Webb introduced guests Tiffany Ellis-Williams of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, Jim Linsenmeyer of the state’s Department of Economic Development, Kyle Reedy of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, David Workman of the Hardy County Commission, Freddie Davis of the Tucker County Commission, Greg Greenwalt of Eastern’s Board of Governors, and Ward Malcolm, a local business owner who previously had been an administrator for the college’s Workforce Education Department. Webb also recognized support from invited guests who were not able to attend that day, including state Sen. Randy Smith (R-Tucker), David Cooper of the Tucker Community Foundation, and Adam Sanders of the Steeley Foundation.
The luncheon’s invited guests included representatives of organizations that had made significant financial contributions to the program over the last several months, allowing the college to purchase two gently used tractors – one with an automatic transmission and with a manual transmission – and a pup trailer. The two tractors replaced an older tractor that had become prohibitively expensive to maintain and repair, and the pup trailer was a helpful addition to the program because its shorter length was easier for novice drivers to maneuver.
Webb also noted the consistent support of local and state government officials who recognized the potential economic benefits of the program for area employers and residents.
Webb closed her remarks at the luncheon by showing images of a co-branding project between Eastern and Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation. The project, executed by LMC, a marketing agency in Elkins, features Pilgrim’s Pride branding on half of the program’s new pup trailer, alongside Eastern’s Workforce Education Department.
Melissa Shockey, Eastern’s Workforce Education program director, then introduced Mike Sites, CDL instructor, to the audience and explained how Sites had initiated the transformation of the program by redeveloping its curriculum to conform to new U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements. Per changes that were enacted in early 2022, all U.S. CDL training programs must be registered with FMCSA, and all CDL license applicants must train with registered training programs.
With FMCSA program registration, Sites said, the CDL training program was positioned to grow and serve more students, a vision shared by Shockey and Webb. Webb worked with partners to secure funding to purchase the tractors and the trailer, and an additional CDL instructor, Eddie Mullenax, was added to the staff at the start of the fall semester.
Sites subsequently introduced Mullenax to the audience and explained how they have been able to divide up tasks and spend more time with each student, especially in the trucks, and that one-on-one instruction was improving the learning process for students. Also, based on comments from program completers – like the text message Mullenax received – the program was producing drivers that were well prepared when they entered the workforce.
Since mid-August, Shockey said, 20 students have enrolled in the CDL training program at Eastern, with 14 finishing and earning their CDL license, and six still completing training hours. Nearly all of the program completers are employed.
Rob Burns, the college’s director of non-profits, then provided an update on a unique scholarship – the Roberts’ Scholarship – that was created by a donor who recognized the need for trained drivers. The scholarship supported a CDL student during the fall and will also support a student enrolling in Spring 2023.
The luncheon was concluded by Eastern’s president, Thomas Striplin, who credited the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Community and Technical College system for supporting workforce education. Striplin said Eastern was doing everything it could to provide workforce training, like the CDL training program, to fill workforce needs in the Potomac Highlands, and that the college valued support from its partners and the community to meet those challenges.
Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College’s Workforce Education Department, based in Moorefield, serves six counties in the Potomac Highlands by offering a variety of affordable workforce trainings, covering CDL training, agriculture, healthcare, welding, and more. Learn more at https://easternwv.edu/workforce-education/