(Media release from Georgia Northwestern Technical College):

Employees of a northwest Georgia concrete supplier will receive apprenticeship training at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) thanks to a new grant program.

Wayne Davis Concrete has selected loader operator Elijah Page as the first of 10 apprentices it will send for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training through GNTC’s Office of Economic Development. The apprenticeship training program is funded through the Apprenticeships for Economic Recovery (AER) Grant program, part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“I’ve wanted to get my CDL for a while now,” Page said. “Having a CDL provides a high-paying, stable job, as well as a lifelong career in a growing industry. These are important factors to me when choosing a career as I have a wife and a son to support.”

Page previously worked for another concrete company but decided to join the Wayne Davis Concrete team after hearing what a good company it is, he said.

Since opening its first ready mix plant in Tallapoosa in 1971, Wayne Davis Concrete (WDC) has become a leading privately-held, family-operated, ready mix concrete supplier in northwest Georgia, according to the company. The company currently operates 19 ready mix plants, has more than 150 ready mix trucks and employs approximately 340 people. 

“I reached out to GNTC to present the possibility of partnering with WDC for a Hybrid CDL Training Program to build our industry and workforce,” said Zach Issa, safety coordinator at Wayne Davis Concrete. “I was pleased to hear that Angela Berch (GNTC’s vice president of Economic Development) and her team were already in the final stages of beginning one.”

Issa characterized the collaboration as “perfect timing for both parties” to move forward with the program. While the company does not have a timeline for training the other nine employees, the company already has some candidates in mind.

Page said he told Issa he wanted to earn his CDL during his job interview. When Issa told him about the new CDL program, Page knew he wanted to be part of it.

“Wayne Davis Concrete is taking a progressive approach to train employees by investing in employees they believe have recognizable potential,” Berch said. “The AER funds are being used to help boost workers’ skills and wages.”

Once Page completes an online course developed by GNTC Commercial Truck Driving instructors Judy Roddenberry and Barry Tweedy, Wayne Davis Concrete will assign a mentor to work with him to hone his driving and road skills, she said.

When his instructors and mentor agree that Page is ready, the Office of Economic Development will test him at the Polk County Campus in Rockmart, she said. Tweedy is a certified CDL examiner.

Upon completing his training, Page will transition from operating a frontend construction-style heavy machinery loader to being a full-time professional delivery technician for the concrete company, Issa said.

“I’m really looking forward to learning how to be the safest and most productive driver that I can be,” Page said. “I will share what I learn at GNTC with other drivers. I would eventually like to become a driver trainer.”

Issa said he reached out to GNTC about the program because he knew Berch and Roddenberry and appreciated the flexibility GNTC has to tailor non-accredited courses to employer needs.

Wayne Davis Concrete is the second employer to collaborate with GNTC’s Office of Economic Development to take advantage of the AER Grant program. The first was a local manufacturer whose employees are being trained as robotics technicians; that first cohort of apprentices is expected to complete their training in October, Berch said.

“Other companies have done CDL Apprenticeships for credit hours using these funds in the past, but the Wayne Davis Concrete CDL Apprenticeship is the first offered by GNTC’s Office of Economic Development,” she said, adding that GNTC is eager to establish more CDL Apprenticeship partnerships with employers in the college’s service area.

AER funds cover the cost of the program. Employers do not incur any out-of-pocket expenses by participating in the program, Berch said.

“GNTC’s Office of Economic Development is excited to partner with our service area employers to upskill their current employees through the AER Grant program,” Berch stated. “What better way for employers to invest in their great employees? It’s a win-win for the employer and employee!”

The Technical College System of Georgia’s (TCSG) Office of Workforce Development administers the grant program, which provides apprenticeship funds for TCSG institutions to help offset the costs of training for eligible programs. The grant supports apprenticeships in three industries key to Georgia’s economic recovery: healthcare; manufacturing; and transportation, distribution and logistics, according to the grant manual.

Apprentices are paid employees from their first day of the apprenticeship who produce high-quality work; learn on-the-job skills that enhance their employers’ needs; learn job-related skills through classroom education, whether virtual or in-person; are mentored by a skilled worker; and toward obtaining a nationally recognized credential they receive upon program completion, according to the manual.

Participating businesses gain highly-skilled employees, have improved employee retention, increase productivity and develop a more diverse workforce, according to the manual. Employees net higher wages, increase their skills, work toward a nationally-recognized credential and boost their chances for career advancement and upward mobility.

Funding for the AER Grant program training through GNTC is limited but still available. Berch urges any employers who would like more information about the program to contact GNTC’s Office of Economic Development for more information soon at [email protected].

GNTC announces Wayne Davis Concrete’s participation in the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) apprenticeship training program through GNTC’s Office of Economic Development. (From left, front row) GNTC Commercial Truck Driving instructor Judy Roddenberry, Wayne Davis Concrete Recruiter Specialist Vanessa Rivera, Wayne Davis Concrete CDL apprentice Elijah Page, Wayne Davis Concrete Human Resources Manager Teena Hurst, GNTC Commercial Truck Driving instructor Barry Tweedy; (back row) Wayne Davis Concrete Safety Coordinator Zach Issa, Wayne Davis Concrete Safety Director Joseph Arp, GNTC President Dr. Heidi Popham, GNTC Economic Development Vice President Angela Berch, Wayne Davis Concrete Business Analyst Austin Davis and Wayne Davis Concrete Business Analyst Jacob Davis.