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BREAKING NEWS: Touch of class saves driver training program
RED DEER, Alta. -- Alberta's pioneering Professional Driver Certificate program has steered through its first rough patch and will continue on with a few new touches. The provincial government recently gave permission to the program's administrators to make the necessary changes to keep the pilot project in operation, has learned. With the government's consent, the program will begin offering Class 1 driver training courses with its March intake and has shortened the required practicum. Concern was raised in December 2007 by stakeholders about a lack of enrollment in the program and the required changes necessary to the keep the pilot program intact. A combination of Alberta's booming economy, the level of training, and the length of the program, were all blamed for hindering its success. "I have talked to many students and companies who want to enter and support the program but when they find out that it doesn't include the Class 1 licence and as a result the student is unable to earn a wage for the majority of the 20 plus weeks, they don't sign up," noted Dennis McCarty, chair of the PDC program.

It's hoped changes to Alberta's professional driver certificate
will provide new drivers to a market that needs them badly.
The program launched in June 2007 as a post-Class 1 training course and is based on the Canadian Trucking Human Resource Council's (CTHRC) Earning Your Wheels program. The two-year pilot project is being administered by Red Deer College and is offered at four truck driver training schools spread out across the province in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Red Deer. It was soon determined the program would need to be able to offer Class 1 licence training in order continue operation and meet industry demands. Being primarily funded by Alberta Advanced Education & Technology, the program needed government consent to make any changes to the curriculum. "They (Alberta Advanced Education and Technology) have approved the changes and we are going to modify the program," Donna Hennig, associate dean of Trades and Manufacturing at Red Deer College, tells us. "The new program will go into effect for the next intake, which will be sometime in March but we don't have the exact date yet." The approved changes will include Class 1 licence training, which will also create more hours behind the wheel for students; and a practicum segment, which has been shortened to four weeks, but the student must drive for an average of 25 hours per week. Previously the program took a total of 20 weeks to complete and was only available to students who already possessed a Class 1 licence. "The big difference now is we can include Class 1 training as opposed to it being a pre-requisite," added Hennig. The changes were proposed by Red Deer College, in partnership with its industry advisory board, including the Transportation Training and Development Association and reps from the AMTA and Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation. A total of 10 students will be accepted at each location and the cost is will be about $3,400 for the entire eight weeks. "It is cheaper than a typical program, but the cost has gone up a bit to account for the increased driving time," Hennig explains. "Because it's publicly funded by the government it makes it cheaper for students." The Professional Driver Certificate pilot program is funded to run for two years and after it's proven itself, Hennig hopes to be able to affiliate the program with an increased number of truck driver training schools. "In the future, any school that can meet the CTHRC standards will hopefully be able to join, but it's just in the pilot stage right now," said Hennig. "We're using the same standards as CTHRC's Earning Your Wheels program, which any school can apply to administer if they meet the standards."
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