Truck driver training parks in Fair Bluff through community college partnerships

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023

Southeastern Community College and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute joined forces to offer a truck driver training course starting Aug. 1, when 13 students will work for qualifications to become a truck driver and gain hands-on experience with large transport trucks. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held July 31 to celebrate the partnership between the two colleges and the town of Fair Bluff. 

SCC President Dr. Chris English said the partnership with CCCTI is a seed program that allowed CCCTI to plant truck driver training courses at community colleges that cannot afford it. Within the next year, Dr. English said that SCC hopes to break away from CCCTI and host its own truck driver training program. 

“This equipment is expensive and not cheap,” English said. “Y’all took one truck and now have over 100 pieces of equipment for truck driver training and are helping all these colleges.”  

English explained that with the help of Rep. Brenden Jones, $14 million was allocated to SCC for the construction of a 25,000 square foot automotive shop lab facility with a five-acre driving track. 

“So, all of this will transition to the college in a couple of years,” English said. “We want to be the force to be reckoned with North Carolina.” 

Jones said the ribbon cutting was a “pivotal day” in Columbus County with witness to the construction of uptown Fair Bluff and the new truck driver training program with SCC. 

“When Dr. English first came and we met, I gave him some concerns of mine on the direction the college has gone,” Jones said. “He has exceeded my expectations of where he’s carried this college with his board. We’re getting back to the roots of what Southeastern Community College is for, and we’re teaching life skills that young men and young women can go out and make great livings without a four-year degree.” 

Angie Ransom, dean of business careers and technical training, said the partnership with the town of Fair Bluff was necessary to make the truck driver training course possible. Ransom thanked the SCC financial aid and NC Works offices for their work in prioritizing getting the 13 students ready to begin class. She explained the partnership with CCCTI was grant funded and provided scholarships to truck driver students. 

“The programming itself is nine and a half weeks, so the first class starts tomorrow, first class ends Oct. 1 and a few days later, we start class number two,” Ransom said. “We have classes scheduled through 2024, so that makes me happy.” 

Scott Hartley, director of truck driver training at CCCTI, said that his college partners with seven other institutions in addition to SCC. He explained that Harold Curtis is the lead instructor for the class in Fair Bluff, and there are two courses booked for this year and five courses booked for next year. The truck driver training courses are taught on the concrete lot between the former Fair Bluff Motors and Dollar General on Main Street. 

“We are the best truck driving school in North Carolina and possibly east of the Mississippi River,” Hartley said. “That’s what we claim.”  

Randy Britt, Fair Bluff town council member and member of the SCC Board of Trustees, emphasized the importance of partnerships. He explained that partnerships work by the small parts working together to “get things done.”  

“We are looking forward to this positive activity,” Britt said. “Southeastern Community College has been the shining star for Columbus County and this area of the state for many, many years, and it will continue to be under Dr. English’s leadership and the staff working under him right now.” 

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