Students involved in the Professional Truck Driving program at Salt Lake Community College are getting a unique hands-on experience this year.
The Utah Food Bank is allowing students to pull their trailers, load freight and deliver donation items. In doing so, students are fulfilling their 240-hour requirement for the truck driving program certificate.
“A lot of people think that they’re just going to jump in behind the wheel of a truck and drive,” says Bill Tovar, a truck driving instructor at SLCC. “Getting them out there shows them that drivers have to load freight, unload freight, and might get dirt under their finger nails.”
Students are not only getting useful experience, but are beginning to understand the need for food in Utah.
“It brings awareness to the students that we do have a food shortage and it also lets the community know that the Salt Lake Community College is involved in helping out with the effort,” says Tovar.
The program’s partnership with the Utah Food Bank is not the first time they’ve worked with other companies.
In the past, SLCC’s Truck Driving Program has had externships with Nicholas and Company, a wholesale food distributor. The externship available with Utah Food Bank is the first in a long time since the partnership with Nicholas and Company.
Tovar, along with Kenneth Medell, another truck driving instructor for the program, has been working for the past couples years for an opportunity such as this. Tovar refers to the partnership with Utah Food Bank as a “stepping stone” to other opportunities and experiences for SLCC students.
Tovar and Medell have over 10 years of training and truck driving experience. They understand the importance of learning outside the classroom and how it can benefit students. For them, it’s not only about doing this for a good cause, but also for preparing students.
Along with providing students more hands-on truck driving experience, Tovar and Medell want students to understand what a truck driving career means and what it will take.
“Every one of our students has told us that they have changed their own personal driving habits since coming here,” says Medell.
“[These companies] are getting the chance to meet our students and find out the quality of work they do and the student’s potential for jobs,” says Tovar.
According to Medell, many of these companies have their own truck drivers. As the students continue to show good work ethics, these companies will be more interested in having them as employees in the future.
Tovar and Medell are now looking into more offers for externships for students. They believe it will continue to help these students succeed in the industry.
“I think the Food Bank was the very best move we could have made in years,” says Tovar. “I don’t want to be a trucking company here, but I want to get the students the experience they’ll need.”