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February 24, 2021

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. A unique partnership between Johnson County Community College’s (JCCC) Continuing Education Transportation program and Johnson County Adult Education’s (JCAE) Literacy program puts newly trained truck drivers on the road to success. 

The initiative helps non-native English speakers in Johnson County obtain workforce skills in truck driving.

“The collaboration between the CDL training class and JCAE’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program is changing the lives of non-native speakers so they can get high-wage, high-demand jobs in the transportation industry,” said Josh Smith, Transportation Program Director in Continuing Education at JCCC.

The profession’s perks include health insurance, paid time off and great starting pay. First-year drivers can earn $50,000 a year, and some earn more than $60,000.

All classes through JCAE are taught in English. Students come from all over the world. In fact, over 50 languages are spoken among them.

Five students have already earned their CDL permits and passed the theory part of the testing. The added resource of an ESL instructor has certainly helped them excel. 

The students are from Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Somalia. They have a range of educational backgrounds. Despite their differences, they have one thing in common: None had experience driving a commercial truck or even a manual transmission before this program.

“These five students have the highest class average on the theory portion of testing of any prior CDL class at JCCC,” said Smith.

In addition to the demands of the program, each student works a full-time job or supports their family full time. At least one student supports family overseas. And one had household family members fall ill with COVID-19 while completing theory classes.

Despite bumps in the road, these students are in it for the long haul. They’re committed to learning truck driving skills, regulations, processes and best practices — all in English, a language none of them grew up speaking.

“They’re dedicated, hardworking and have accomplished so much," Smith said.

The five are on track to complete the program in a few weeks. Each looks forward to an exciting career in the trucking industry.

To explore how JCCC’s CDL program could put you on the road to success, or learn about becoming a CDL instructor, visit or contact Josh Smith, Program Director, Continuing Education, at 913-469-3836.

To learn more about Adult Basic Education or ESL classes through JCAE, contact Georgia Deming, ESL Program Manager, at 913-469-7692. Students must qualify and enroll for the regular ESL program prior to being considered for this CDL program.