The Upper Savannah COG has received a 2019 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for the Ready to Roll Project which has helped train several truck drivers in the region.
In October 2017, the USCOG Board of Directors heard S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) Secretary Christy Hall’s detailed overview of an SCDOT plan for repairing roads and bridges across the state over the next 10 years. A major focus of this plan would be the utilization of additional revenues from the gas tax increase approved in the S.C. Roads Bill earlier in 2017.
As of 2017, South Carolina had the highest rural road fatality rate in the nation and the Plan would use targeted data to identify and implement safety features on 1,000 miles of the state’s deadliest roads. SCDOT planned to replace 465 bridges over the 10 years. The Plan also would include improving 140 miles of existing interstate highways while doubling the road-resurfacing program that had been under-funded for three decades. South Carolina’s transportation budget would increase from approximately $100 million (in 2016) to around $800 million in annual revenue by 2024 due to the two cents per gallon, per year gas tax increase and additional vehicle-related fees.
Among those attending the Upper Savannah Board meeting was USCOG Workforce Development Administrator Ann Skinner, who realized that an increased workforce would be needed to complete the 10-Year Plan. The increased spending would be the equivalent of a new manufacturing plant coming to the state, she believed. Construction contractors would need local workers to be able to put in competitive bids. With a tight labor force, Skinner realized that there would be an increased need for skilled trade workers.
As a result of the meeting, Skinner and her staff started researching needs and the Ready to Roll idea was born. In April 2018, the SC Workforce Development Board issued a grant announcement for innovative projects. An application was entered for the proposed Ready to Roll project and Piedmont Technical College was selected to be the lead applicant. In June 2018, a grant award of more than $300,000 was announced. USCOG then organized a focus group meeting and surveyed local construction industry leaders, who identified the primary skill gap as commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills.
Ready to Roll is a joint project between SC Works and other partners, spearheaded by PTC, which serves USCOG’s seven-county region. The college had previously identified this need within the industry; however, it did not quite have the means to start truck driver training until it received grant funds. Once the grant was awarded, PTC was able to not only purchase a dump truck and trailer but also began rolling out plans for the upcoming semester.
At first, the class would host only eight students at a time, but as time moved on (and more training resources were acquired) it would add more students to the roster. The program was to begin Oct. 1, 2018. Since then, several drivers have not only been trained but have been put to work. The students have also received online certification from the S.C. Asphalt Paver’s Association during their time not spent inside a truck and have also learned basic employment skills such as resume writing, interviewing skills and other workplace skills.
NADO’s Impact Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and their partners for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities.
Award-winning projects were honored during NADO’s 2019 Annual Training Conference, held October 19-22 in Reno, NV. The 2019 class of award recipients consists of 100 projects from 66 organizations spanning 24 states. These projects are presented in an interactive “Story Map” that includes project summaries and partners. The Story Map is available online at https://www.nado.org/impactawards/
“The Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Awards program is an opportunity each year for NADO to publicly recognize the important services that regional development organizations deliver to their local communities,” said 2018-2019 NADO President Scott Koons, executive director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, located in Gainesville. “The projects awarded have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of programs and resources provided by regional development organizations across the country.”
For more information about this award-winning project, contact Upper Savannah Workforce Development Administrator Ann Skinner at 864-941-8074.
Since 1967, NADO has provided advocacy, education, networking, and research for the national network of 540 regional development organizations. NADO members provide professional, programmatic, and technical assistance to over 2,300 counties and 15,000 municipalities.