By Amber Deyo
In 2015, Lineage Logistics acquired Columbia Colstor and with it, the location on Lee Road in Othello. Houston Johnson, of Lineage Logistics, said they were given the directive from the corporate office that the employees must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), even those just transporting across the street. He said they started outreach to see how to get that done and came in contact with Beth Laszlo, M.Ed., Center for Business and Industry Services (CBIS) coordinator with Big Ben Community College (BBCC).
Laszlo and Johnson reached out to the head of BBCC’s CDL department head Guillermo Garza and he is credited by all parties as being the creative driving
force to make the training work. Lineage had 12 employees they wanted to have the licensing, which has a state requirement of 160 hours training.
“You can’t do it the traditional way, you have to think out of the box,” Garza said. “We try to make it so we’re versatile for any company.”
Johnson said they looked at the resources they had as a company and BBCC tailored the program to their company. The employees continued to work, sometimes with an altered schedule, and attended classes in the evenings and on weekends. At Big Bend, they have an obstacle course used on weekends for training, but they also set up a mini course at Lineage to use during the week.
They started training last fall, three employees at a time. Laszlo said, so far, all the employee shave passed. Between Garza and instructor Oscar Casados, they have 50 years of experience with a CDL. Casados said their experience gives the students real professional training nothing like the way he and Garza learned.
“Garza’s commitment is what made it happen. Laszlo said. “And funding through a JSP grant paid for 100 percent of the training costs.”
The state offers a Job Skills Program (JSP) grant in which an employer gets 100 percent of training costs covered, while matching that paying wages and benefits to participants.
“Laszlo really helped us along the process,” Johnson said in reference to putting together what they needed for the grant.
Johnson said he has noticed the employees who have had the training are more confident and have a better understanding of safety aspects and the accreditation adds to Lineage’s positive safety record.
“The guys’ standards are higher now,” Johnson said. “They have skin in the game because they have a CDL and that’s exciting to me.”
Johnson said having professional drivers is a great asset to the company. Lineage is always looking at ways to better serve their customers and now, if they were approached by another company in the area to use their cold storage facilities, they’d be in a position to transport.
“Before, we could only get across the street, now there’s a potential to get anywhere within reason, “Johnson said.
For 2015-2016, it is projected that JSP grants will impact about 1,500 employees in the area, with grant funds nearing $575,000 and a projected match of more than $900,000, Laszlo said. Training offered has included basic Microsoft Office, business communications, human resources training, leadership skills supervisor training and conflict management.
There are two other programs available in the area. One is a customized training program, also a grant through the state, that has 50 percent of the training costs being paid through reduced B&O taxes over 18 months, which helps increase a business’ cash flow during that time period. This year, they have done welding, intermediate and advanced training in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access training through that program.
Finally, Workforce Ed is a private pay program directly through CBIS if they don’t qualify for a grant program. This year, they have done first aid training, Microsoft Outlook training and business writing. Laszlo said with or without a grant, employers can get training for less as they are not paying the high travel expenses when training is provided in BBCC facilities or on-site.
“This is just what we have already done in the area…the possibilities are endless and are specific to the industry and their needs,” Laszlo said. ”Any type of industry has the opportunity to access this funding, but it is required to be partnership with Big Bend to complete an application and access the funds.”
CBIS starts the process by reviewing the needs of the organization and follows up through the process and continually monitors and coordinates throughout until the training plan is complete, Laszlo said.
“If another company wants to do this, that’s why we’re here,” she said. “It’s a great program, the company wins, Big Bend wins and the employees win.”