NICEVILLE, Fla. (WKRG) — A push to solve the truck driver shortage across the Gulf Coast will hit home in Okaloosa County. $1.5 million is going to the Northwest Florida State College to expand its current Commercial Driver’s License program.

Governor Ron DeSantis made the announcement at NWFSC Thursday morning. Four more state colleges will receive funding.

Job Growth Grant Funding:

  • Broward College ($2.6 million) – to lead the initiative, start a new CDL driver training program, fund tuition costs for up to 142 students, and construct a new driver training area. Broward College anticipates serving 250 students in the first year.
  • Daytona State College ($1.3 million) – to start a new CDL driver training program at its Advanced Technology College in Daytona Beach. Daytona State anticipates serving 200 students in the first year. 
  • Northwest Florida State College ($1.5 million) – to enhance its existing CDL driver training program at its Chautauqua Center in DeFuniak Springs, including the purchase of equipment, to potentially serve 250 students in the program’s first year.
  • Valencia College ($1.3 million) – to expand its CDL driver training program, including the purchase of equipment, to potentially serve 200 students in the program’s first year.
  • State College of Florida ($1 million) – to the PCOG program, administered by DOE, to expand the college’s existing CDL program.
Rendy Taylor, Shelton Trucking LLC

The college expansions will be able to accommodate at least 3,500 students per year in Florida. Industry leader Rendy Taylor with Shelton Trucking said an increase in drivers is desperately needed. Currently, there are 80,000 trucks sitting without drivers in the state.

On top of the college funding, CareerSource Okaloosa Walton, a free government partner agency helping place students in NWFSC programs is getting $200,000 from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Part of a $500,000 donation to cover tuition costs associated with CDL students across the state.

“This will open opportunities for many more students, those that have lost their jobs, military spouses, veterans, and all other individuals,” said Michele Burns with CareerSource Okaloosa Walton. “So this is just a great opportunity.”

Current CDL student at NWFSC

During the press conference, a student working on his CDL degree in NWFSC said CareerSource got him on the right track after losing his long-term job at a paper mill. The program accepted 20 new students this year with the agency’s partnership.

“We didn’t have to do anything except show up and got d the list they said we had to get done and show up for class,” the student said. “I’ve been here four weeks, I have learned a tremendous amount and I can’t wait to graduate.”

CareerSource serves Floridians across the state. The Okaloosa Walton branch said in the pandemic and since, the need the see has changed.

“There was a decrease throughout the pandemic with the exception of unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance here in Florida,” said Kelly Jordan with CareerSource Okaloosa Walton. “However, our numbers are starting to pick back up and individuals are needing our services in our centers.”