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(ABILENE, Texas) – Two Taylor County business owners did not hesitate when asked to help Texas State Technical College’s Professional Driving Academy.

Circle C Hauling and Dunagin Transport were honored for their donations of two tractor-trailers to the commercial driver’s license (CDL) program during a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 27. Circle C Hauling also donated a trailer to TSTC. The four-week program is available at Abilene’s campus on U.S. Highway 80.

“We did the easiest part, and that was being able to say yes to partner with TSTC,” said Bo Dunagin, president of Dunagin Transport. “It is great to partner with TSTC and put drivers into an industry that is moving so fast with technology.”

Josh Martin, owner of Circle C Hauling, said he hopes the trainees follow three rules when they enroll in the program. He said the students’ goals should be to do what is right, to do everything to the best of their ability, and to show people that they care.

Martin also challenged TSTC and its instructors.

“TSTC, you have to be committed,” he said. “This program is going to be successful. You have the opportunity to change generations.”

Mike Reeser, TSTC’s chancellor and CEO, said the partnerships with the Taylor County companies are essential to the college’s mission.

“We start by working with employers and work first to assess the skill needs,” he said. “We learned to work at business speed to help our industry. Our mission is to get more skilled Texans to go to work for them.”

Tina Jackson, assistant commissioner of education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said TSTC is a great example of getting people to work quickly.

“It is critical that we fast-track students into the workforce,” she said. “What better place to do that than to start here. We always see a return on investment here.”

The TSTC Foundation received two grants to help fund the program. The first was a $350,000 Texas Talent Connection grant, and the second was a $530,000 Texas Reskilling and Upskilling Through Education grant. The funds are being used to cover instructor salaries, a project coordinator, tuition fees for up to 22 students, and other program equipment.

After completing the four-week program, students will be able to control and maneuver a vehicle in various traffic situations and safely back through different obstacles. They will also be able to inspect and determine the condition of critical vehicle components, including instruments and controls; engines and drivetrains; chassis and suspensions; steering, brake and coupling systems; emergency equipment; and cargo securement devices.

During Thursday’s event, the Department of Public Safety announced that TSTC has been certified as a third-party skills testing program. Students who complete the program will be able to take the CDL certification test during the final week of class.

State Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, said he is proud that TSTC is leading the way in providing a program that is critical to the economy.

“I am amazed at the proficiency of the training being provided for this critical skill needed in our state and country,” he said.

According to onetonline.org, the need for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in Texas is forecast to increase 22% between 2020 and 2030. According to the website, drivers in the state earn an average annual salary of $46,960.

For more information about TSTC’s Professional Driving Academy, visit tstc.edu/workforce/professional-driving-academy.

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