David and Pam McKenzie
A decent salary, flexible scheduling, and the opportunity to see all 48 states are high on the list of job perks for Southeast Technical truck driving graduates David and Pam McKenzie. But if you are among the classes of current students David and Pam meet with as guest speakers, you’ll notice a much less tangible benefit as they talk about life on the road: they are genuinely happy in their new careers.
David and Pam, who both drive for Cedar Rapids Steel Transport (CRST), light up when telling their story. Prior to enrolling in Southeast Technical’s truck driving program, David held various contractor jobs in the Winona area, while Pam worked for the local school district’s Key Kids program and as a kindergarten aid. When the economy tanked and David became unemployed, they knew they needed to make a change.
“I knew about the truck driving program at Southeast Tech because I saw the school’s trucks driving around town,” David, a long-time Winonan, notes. “My uncle taught me how to drive a truck back in the ’80s, but it wasn’t practical for me back then since I had a family. With the kids out of the house now, it makes more sense.”
David enrolled in Southeast Technical’s eight-week truck driving program in 2009, and after graduating and easily finding a job in the field, he convinced Pam to give it a try in 2010.
“It took me a little while to get the hang of it,” Pam admits, “but the instructors were really patient with me.”
The quality of Southeast Technical’s truck driving instructors is something David also cites as a major advantage, in addition to the program’s eight-week length versus other programs that run for only two-weeks and provide little behind-the-wheel training.
“I took the program at Southeast Tech because it was local, but after I graduated, I realized how good it was,” David explains. “Working with drivers who only go through a two-week program, I wonder how they learn everything.”
Now with some training duties at CRST, David helps new drivers catch up on their basic skills, and that’s why he’s such a strong advocate for Southeast Technical’s program. “You’ll get a big head start compared to other drivers,” he says. “The instructors are great and really care about making you a safe driver.”
After their typical four to six weeks on the road, David and Pam enjoy using some of their time off to visit with current truck driving students at Southeast Technical. The one message that students hear loud and clear is that by putting in some hard work up front, they’re sure to succeed.
“You’re going to learn at Southeast Tech,” Pam says. “And in this industry, you’ll have a job no matter what happens to the economy.”