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Confederaton College takes on national shortage of truck drivers (2 photos)

College says hundreds of jobs are available in NW Ontario alone.

THUNDER BAY — Older drivers are retiring, and younger replacements are hard to find. Canada's trucking industry continues to struggle to find enough people to keep its fleets on the road.

Confederation College has recognized the problem as an opportunity to launch a new program which it says will provide graduates with "competitive" incomes.

The college recently partnered with Sudbury-based Northern Academy of Transportation Training to establish an AZ truck driver training course in northwestern Ontario.

Jason Ozbolt, manager, Training Initiative, Workforce Development at the college says "hundreds" of driving jobs are available throughout the region.

Ozbolt said the Ontario Ministry of Transportation approached Confederation with the idea. 

The course incorporates the MTO's new Mandatory Entry Level Training standards for truck drivers.

"It's very structured in the hours and seat time, and how much time [students] spend in the classroom for their practical and their written tests," Ozbolt said.

According to a news release from the college, the program will include "real-world scenarios and emphasizes defensive driving. It meets and exceeds all mandatory objectives" established by the ministry.

Ozbolt said NATT, which operates a private career college in Sudbury, has a proven track record and a good reputation for training in the trucking industry.

The program at Confederation will provide not only training but driver testing as well. negating the need for students to make an appointment at a DriveTest centre.

The six-week program carries a tuition fee of $8,400.

Recruitment is currently underway, and the course is expected to begin within weeks.  

The college is already considering bringing the program to some of its regional campuses in towns where mills need drivers to haul wood.

Ozbolt describes the course as "a great terms of helping bring more drivers into the industry. If we can find a way to assist in building the workforce, it's going to strengthen everyone, whether it's the forestry companies or the guys doing all the long-haul shipping across Ontario, nationally, and even into the States."