Bitterroot College UM launches big rig classroom


HAMILTON, Mont. - Students are getting ready to learn energy and manufacturing skills at Bitterroot College University of Montana.

The college is launching the program through a $930,000 grant it received from the United States Department of Labor.

In the fall, the college will offer welding, machining, and electronics.

In early May, students will begin studies to earn a commercial driver's license to drive big rigs. The program's CDL director showed NBC Montana the truck and trailer that will offer field training for students.

Scott Ralston took us for a short spin to get the feel that students will find when they get behind the wheel.

"It's a good career field," said Ralston, "a good career paying field."

Ralston comes from an old trucking family in Corvallis. He has spent decades in the trucking industry.

His students will get 80 hours of classroom training at the college, and 40 hours behind the wheel.

In the end, said Ralston, they will earn a CDL that will allow them to drive a truck and trailer in any state in the union and all the provinces of Canada.

"We should have students job-ready by July," said Bitterroot College UM's director Victoria Clark.

Ralston expects many of his students will find work in the oil industry in eastern Montana or North Dakota.

There's high demand for all kinds of jobs there, he said, "Especially for commercial truck drivers. There's a shortage. They just can't get enough."

Our community has been calling for "these sorts of training opportunities for years," according to Clark.

Ralston said the 2007 Kenworthoffers the best view of any classroom at the college. He can't wait for the logo saying Bitterroot College University of Montana to be installed on the truck next week.