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Learning how to get into the driver's seat
22 November 2013

Lujuanna Bull Coming (Northern Cheyenne) Lame Deer, MT at the wheel of a semi-truck.

BISMARCK (UTN) - When Lujuanna Bull Coming heard that a new program in truck-driver training was starting at United Tribes Technical College she jumped on it right away.

      "My whole life I wanted to be a semi driver," she says, practicing a back-up maneuver behind the steering-wheel of a shiny red semi-truck.

      Her brother LeWarren spotted the UTTC offering first and said 'let's go.'

      That was in August and Bull Coming, a single mother, moved her three teen-aged kids to Bismarck from Lame Deer, MT.

      Now she and her brother and three other would-be drivers are within reach of having a ticket into the booming regional workforce: a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).


UTTC CDL students train in two shiny red big-rigs.

      This is the first cohort of students in a 16 week training that teaches commercial truck driving (CDL) and basic heavy equipment operation (HEO). The two are part of UTTC's workforce training program known as DeMaND. Separate instructional tracks are offered in welding, electrician's training, and GIS.

      "I can't wait to get to class in the morning," says Bull Coming. "One thing I like here is that it's all Native. You get a lot of support."

      That's one of the benefits of being on the campus of one of the nation's leading tribal colleges along with students from over 60 other tribes.

William Brave Bull (Standing Rock) Solen, ND, operating a front-end loader.

      "Indians learn with a hands-on style," says Mary Ann Maulson, another student who came from Wisconsin with the dream of one-day owning her own trucking business.

      Maulson brought along her four children and they live in housing on the UTTC campus. The relatively short duration matches the timeline of one college semester and the training goes by quickly.


Mary Ann Maulson (Ojibway) Lac de Flambeau, WI, backing-up with her eyes on the mirror.

      Maulson and the others can train at the wheel of the college's two big rigs because they were prepared from the outset to pass a written test for their "learner's license." The North Dakota Dept. of Transportation's multi-part test was "a tough one," with lots of questions about general knowledge of the field, the equipment and safety features, and rules.

      On their instructional permits are endorsements for driving a tank vehicle, passenger and school busses, and double or triple trailers. The group will also earn certificates in OSHA 10, First Aid/CPR, Hazardous Materials and Flagging, all adding value and marketability in the workplace.

LeWarren Whiteman (Northern Cheyenne) Lame Deer, MT, operating a back-hoe.


      Another student, William Brave Bull of Solen, ND, had some training but never drove a big rig or operated heavy equipment.

      "It was intimidating at first but that goes away," he says after stepping out of the cab of a front-end loader. "Every time it gets a little easier; you have more confidence."

      Brave Bull was working as a custodian and looking for something with better wages.

      "There's just more opportunities and better paying jobs with a CDL," he says.

Dale Walter (Turtle Mountain) Belcourt, ND, operating a back hoe.

      To connect the training with opportunities, UTTC's workforce programs are advised by employers and plugged-in to the state's jobs agency. Job Service North Dakota helped Brave Bull prepare a resumé and get a job application into the Job Service system. Support for tuition, books, fees and required tools is available through another program, Skill-Build-ND, funded by the U. S. Dept. of Labor.

      Brave Bull says he would like a job locally but he's prepared to go to oil country if that's what it takes.

      "I want to support my kids and family," he says. "These are skills that can be used all over."


      All of UTTC's budding drivers hope to shift into the job market when they pass the final hurdle of their training: a behind-the-wheel test.

United Tribes CDL/HEO students, Fall 2013, From left, William Brave Bull (Standing Rock) Solen, ND; Mary Ann Maulson (Ojibway) Lac de Flambeau, WI; LeWarren Whiteman (Northern Cheyenne) Lame Deer, MT; Dale Walter (Turtle Mountain) Belcourt, ND; and Lujuanna Bull Coming (Northern Cheyenne) Lame Deer, MT.

      "I'm a little bit concerned, yes, a few butterflies," says Maulson about the driving test administered by the DOT. "Especially over the part where we have to drive the backhoe and front-end loader onto the trailer."

      Challenging as that sounds, the training they've received will have them prepared. When they pass the test they'll pocket a Class A, Type 1 CDL and be ready to steer into the workforce.

      All of UTTC's workforce programs begin a new cycle of training in January.

      For more information visit http://demandworkforce.com, www.uttc.edu, 701-255-3285, toll free 1-888-643-888.






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  On September 25, 2013, the Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission (a commission of the North Central Association) approved the United Tribes request for the certificate program: Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earth Moving Equipment Operation.