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Port realizes an immediate return on training investment

The Port of Virginia daily transfers millions of dollars in equipment and materials through its operations in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Richmond and Front Royal.

But with an aging workforce and a lack of truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), the port needed to hire third-party drivers on a regular basis.

This process can take a lot of extra time and money, said Donna Circelli, a training instructor at The Port of Virginia.

“One of The Port of Virginia’s core values is sustainability,” she said. “We recognized that, because a large number of our CDL drivers have retired or are about to retire, we had an opportunity to train a new generation of colleagues and improve the sustainability of that part of our business.”

To bridge this training gap, Circelli and the port reached out to Tidewater Community College’s Center for Workforce Solutions, which has offered a CDL program at its location in North Suffolk for years.

Because the need was specific to the equipment and layout of the port, Workforce Solutions customized CDL training onsite at Norfolk International Terminals.

Corey McCray, vice president for Workforce Solutions, said, “This is one of many ways TCC is able to customize training to meet the specific needs of our local and business community. We are proud of the fact that we can partner with local industries to provide the solutions to their workforce needs.”

Starting in February, six students began the classroom and behind-the-wheel training to earn their CDL. These employees were chosen from specific areas of the port that need the most transportation assistance, including crane operation, facility maintenance and vehicle maintenance.

TCC instructors Matt Isaac (pictured) and Wallace Miller compressed an eight-week class into 40 instructional hours.
TCC instructors Matt Isaac (pictured) and
Wallace Miller compressed an eight-week
class into 40 instructional hours.

While several CDL licenses are available, the port needed their employees to have their Class A, which means they can drive just about anything, including vehicles weighing or towing over 26,001 pounds and vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Circelli said the employees who attended the training spent a lot of time outside the classroom studying and doing homework, as the eight-week course was condensed to approximately 40 hours of instruction.

“The instructors, Wallace Miller and Matt Isaac, were great – both in the classroom and behind-the-wheel, despite it being a real ‘crash course’ for everyone,” she said. Despite the quick turnaround training, all six employees passed their CDL exams this past April and are now Class A licensed commercial drivers.

“We are saving a lot of time and money already,” Circelli said. “Although these people are not necessarily driving a big-rig every single day, when we do need that piece of equipment moved or need to transport some materials to a different port, it makes it so much easier and cost effective to have employees ready and able to do so.”

Shaina Yowell, a customized training solutions specialist at TCC who was the project lead on this course, said that the program demonstrates the college’s agility in meeting employers’ needs, whether at a TCC location or a business.

“We are thrilled with the outcome of this pilot program for Workforce Solutions to run CDL training in a customized setting,” she said. “Thanks to everyone’s determination and enthusiasm, we could not have asked for a better outcome.”

For more information about TCC’s customized training solutions, contact Shaina Yowell at 757-822-1164 or To see all of TCC’s maritime programs, including trucking, visit