Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, let ‘em be… truck drivers and nurses.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, truck drivers and registered nurses are among the most in-demand workers in Alabama at present. The department reviewed online job postings and determined that in November, companies had openings for 3,603 heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and 2,076 registered nurses. Economic experts say that both jobs have good long-term prospects for employment, as the needs of an aging population push demand in nursing and retiring Baby Boomers drive demand in both nursing and trucking.
About 70 percent of the products Americans consume are transported via heavy trucks, and the emergence of online retailers like Amazon are putting even more goods on the road. The American Trucking Association projects 900,000 openings for truck drivers by 2025. Automated trucks may cut into this demand, however.
“Changes in employer demands and job openings will create opportunities for potential employees who dedicate the time to learn job skills,” Barbara Thompson, Wallace Community College spokesperson, said. “Upwards of 65 percent of all future jobs will require some sort of job skills training. Even though the unemployment rate is low, a future shortage in skilled labor is projected.”
Nursing training programs throughout the country are working to produce more nurses as many current nurses reach retirement age and as the demands of a graying population require more nurses. This demand is hitting at the same time many nurses are reaching retirement age. About a third of nurses are currently older than 50. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts about 1.2 million jobs for nurses will open over the next decade.
Dothan is well-positioned to meet the growing demand of the local workforce, as Wallace Community College has a well-regarded nursing program and is developing a new CDL program to train qualified truck drivers.
The college has submitted a grant request to the Alabama Community College system for $380,000 to fund property renovations at the Dothan campus to establish the program. Joe Johnson, director of workforce development, has said the renovations would be performed on four acres at the Dothan campus.
The Wallace program would offer six-week courses to students. Students could use the courses to prepare for a class A CDL, which is for 18-wheelers, or a class B CDL, which is for utility trucks and other large trucks. The class A course would cost $3,500 to take; a price has yet to be determined for class B courses.
“It is vital for the area to have strong training programs in healthcare and we are working on truck training,” Matt Parker, President of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “The demand for both these trades is high in our region and essential to growing our economy.”
Shawn King is a nursing supervisor at Dothan Pediatric Clinic. King said local clinics and hospitals are having more difficulty finding nurses. King said that part of the problem is that many local nurses stick with the hospitals and clinics that initially hire them, making recruiting experienced help tough. Another part of the problem is capacity, as nursing schools are struggling to keep up with replenishing the ranks of retiring nurses. For pediatrics and other specialties, the problem is compounded by so many nurses going into elder care.
Thompson said Wallace is working to address the increased demand for nurses by expanding its capacity to train them.
“Wallace has proactively addressed this need with the recent infrastructure investment in the Health Science Building that houses all seven health science programs,” she said. “In December the college held the fall semester pinning ceremony for its two nursing programs – practical nursing and associate degree nursing. The ADN ceremony hosted seventy-three graduates, the largest class to complete the program in the same semester.”
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