LBW partners with Covington Electric, Southeast Gas for CDLs

Published 11:00 am Saturday, June 10, 2023

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LBW Community College’s Workforce and Development continues to soar with its grant funded Entry Level Driver Training program, which is required to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

With Covington Electric Cooperative providing a backup location for training, seven local employees will now be one step closer to receiving their CDL.

“A year ago, we started working with LBW about training employees for our new broadband initiative, Buzz Broadband. As our relationship grew with the LBW Workforce and Development director, we found that LBWCC offered the Entry Level Driver Training program, and we signed a couple of our new employees up. Due to a conflict this week, Covington Electric provided their storm staging area for the CDL participants to test until they were able to return to the Covington County Arena, where training normally takes place. Covington Electric Cooperative is proud to help the local community college, and we are all in when it comes to helping with the workforce development of our community. We have had 30 new hires just in the last two years, and the LBW Workforce and Development group has been a great asset for us. The need for the location this week was due to the arena being used for the state’s rodeo finals this week,” said Covington Electric Safety and Compliance Manager Jason Saunders.

The need for the location change this week came due to the arena being used for the state’s rodeo finals this week.

LBW Director of Workforce Development Chad Sutton stated that discussions were made at the beginning of the college’s CDL program.

“We found the arena for our trainings and had a backup site. Covington Electric recommended this to us, so we have always had it in our back pockets. It’s nice to have the opportunity and shows the community is working together with different entities. We are working on several programs with them right now and are excited,” Sutton said.

There were seven construction workers in attendance at the training, including four from Southeast Gas. The Range and Road course completed this week is one of the final stages for the Entry Level Driver training program before students go to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and complete their road test with a trooper.

Construction workers with Southeast Gas were taking part in the Entry Level Driver Training program this week and must have or obtain a CDL within one year of starting their positions with the company. With three to four new construction workers hired annually, getting them trained and qualified to drive company vehicles under the new CDL standards was proving problematic.

Southeast Gas Director Corporate Services Shannon Jackson felt it was a privilege to work with LBWCC.

“Workforce development is a priority for us at Southeast Gas. Recruiting has been challenging everywhere for the past few years, and with the new CDL requirements, getting our construction employees trained and licensed is more difficult,” Jackson said. “The LBW Skills for Success program allows us to accelerate the process.”

Southeast Gas Safety Coordinator Mark Fowler and Sutton began developing a strategy to solve the issue. LBW’s commercial driver’s license training course allows individuals and businesses like Southeast Gas to participate in rapid credentialing. The four Southeast Gas employees already passed their theories course and obtained their commercial learner’s permit. After completing LBWCC’s Skills for Success Range and Road courses, they will take their ALEA road test later this month.

“This week’s training is an example of community collaboration at its best. First, we partnered with LBW who is providing vital training for our workforce, and then, Covington Electric graciously provided the space to LBW to host the training,” said Jackson. “Now our employees are equipped to succeed, and we believe they will be licensed by the end of the month. This is a great picture of what workforce development looks like. Together, we are strengthening the region’s overall workforce and in turn giving lift to our communities.”

Covington County native Mitchell Maddox has worked at Southeast Gas as a construction worker for seven months.

“During this CDL training course, we have learned everything to prepare us for a road trip. He (Jim) taught us about road hazards and emergencies. We were talking about how we have come a long way in just three days,” Maddox said. “I look forward to getting my license after I finish the course, and I’m also looking forward to an increase in pay. Within our group, everybody has been really positive with each other and encouraging each other. It has been a good thing.”

Fowler agreed with Jackson about the program helping Southeast Gas accelerate the licensure process by several months.

“This one-week program benefits us most by allowing our employees to have limited field interruptions while obtaining their required credentials. The beauty of using LBWCC now is that our employees can participate in both their theories course and their road course through the college. We commend LBWCC for offering this course to our region, and together, we are building a better workforce for southeast Alabama,” Fowler said.

Saunders, Sutton, and Jackson were grateful for the opportunity to all come together and work as one to help better the community.

“We are currently working with LBWCC and the Alabama Community College System on developing a program that will hopefully train utility employees throughout the state whose employers have added a skid steer to their fleet. In doing so, employees will be better prepared to operate their equipment more safely and efficiently,” Saunders said.

“It will be a game changer to work with all the utilities in the state and put a program “When employees are able to get a certification to the piece of equipment they are working on, that helps their file,” Sutton stated. “If we train someone to be better than they were when they were hired, that is workforce development,” Jackson said.

James “Jim” Ethington served as the course instructor and is a private contractor credentialed by the State of Alabama as a certified CDL instructor.

“I thoroughly enjoy what I do, especially when it’s a class like we have right now. I have been teaching them the pre-trip, which is extensive. We also have basic skills where they demonstrate their ability to back up in a straight line at least 100 feet and an offset where they go from one column to another. They also have a 90-degree backup to put a trailer on a 90-degree angle to a 12-foot wide space. The seven individuals have been dedicated and easy to learn. They must have the ability to demonstrate that in their road test before they earn their CDL. They are going forward with their lives and bettering the opportunity to have a CDL in their pocket,” Ethington said.

Ethington will be back in Andalusia on Monday, June 19, for the next course.

For more information on the LBW Workforce Training and Fast Track program, email