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Trocaire College is joining hands with the National Tractor Trailer School to offer the state's first academic certificate in motor vehicle transportation.

The new program, to begin within a few weeks, was announced today during a news conference at the tractor trailer school, 175 Katherine St.

"This is the first time a program of this type has ever been approved by the state Department of Education," said Harry Kowalchyk Jr., president of the National Tractor Trailer School, which has operations in Liverpool, near Syracuse, as well as Buffalo.

"The program is both unique and creative and has been widely supported by the New York State Motor Truck Association, the Professional Truck Driving Institute and several large employers," Kowalchyk noted.

The motor transportation technology program, to include five weeks of paid on-the-job training, will give graduates 45 hours of college credit that can be used toward an associate degree in business administration/transportation.

Because it is a state-approved academic program, participants will be eligible for financial aid. Tuition will be in the $7,000 to $8,000 range, with prehiring by a reputable carrier a part of the bargain.

"To participate in the program, a student will make a commitment to a carrier," Kowalchyk said.

"The student's progress will be monitored. Five weeks will be spent on the job. In many cases, full or partial tuition will be reimbursed, and starting salary will be $28,000 to $32,000."

Applicants must be graduates of an approved secondary school or its equivalent; be 21 or older; have a valid driver's license; pass a Transportation Department physical; and undergo a drug screen test, as required by federal motor carrier safety regulations.

"This is an academic program that challenges Trocaire to move into new areas," said Paul B. Hurley Jr., college president.

"It is in keeping with the mission of the Sisters of Mercy (founders of Trocaire) who have been willing to work with people in all professions," he said. "We are looking forward to helping the economic picture in Western New York, working with the National Tractor Trailer School to help people who are unemployed, or underemployed."

Hurley said Trocaire also views the new program "as an efficient model for higher education as private money is being used to finance the equipment that is needed."

That state-of-the-art equipment will include a driving simulator that also was unveiled today.

"We are the only trucking school in the northeast to acquire one of these," Kowalchyk noted.

Students who enroll in the Buffalo or Syracuse area locations will become students of Trocaire. Professional aspects of the career, computer training, communications and wellness courses will all be taught on the college campus at 360 Choate Ave.

The new program will hold an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Buffalo location of the National Tractor Trailer School.

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