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New tools available for propane marketers amid driver shortage

July 1, 2022 By    
Suburban Propane's national hiring event spawned 47 locations over 22 states to promote openings for drivers, service techs and CSRs.. Photo: iStock.com/Urupong

Photo: Urupong/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

At the National Propane Education & Training Conference earlier this year in Dallas, Eric Kuster of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) asked attendees to raise their hands if they were experiencing difficulty finding drivers.

Nearly every hand raised.

The driver shortage affects the entire industry, and propane retailers are searching for ways to combat it while still growing their businesses. Several resources address the issue head-on.

NC-TEC

The North Carolina Technical Education Center (NC-TEC) addresses workforce-related issues specific to propane.

Through NC-TEC, students receive the education and training necessary to receive all CETP certifications and obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). NC-TEC partnered with a third-party company that offers CDL training to incoming industry drivers. Through that partnership, students can earn the 80 hours of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-mandated driving required to obtain a CDL. According to Juan Pena, director of education at NC-TEC, the training can be completed in as little as two weeks.

Additionally, the CDL earned through NC-TEC transfers to all 50 states, so students across the country can enroll in the program and work wherever they prefer upon graduation.

“The employee is immediately able to begin their mandated 80 hours of driving, knowing that two weeks later, they’ll be good to be back at the company and working,” says Pena.

GeneratioNext PropanePros

GeneratioNext Propane Pros is a job-search website designed to connect prospective industry employees with marketers. Candidates can sign up and apply to various propane companies, filtering by location, job type and more. Students who may not have the experience required to be a licensed professional are able to use the site to find internships and apprenticeships.

Meanwhile, propane retailers can use the site to post job openings for candidates. They can also access a directory of profiles to find potential employees to fill roles at their companies.

In addition to GeneratioNext Propane Pros, Vets2Techs helps marketers hire and train military veterans for open positions. Lpgasjobs.com also connects employers and job seekers.

NPGA’s Registered Apprenticeship Program

The National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Registered Apprenticeship Program includes four pathways: one for propane service technicians and three for drivers. The apprenticeships are competency-based rather than hours-based.

Bobtail driver apprentices must complete 50 core competencies, while utility/service drivers and transport vehicle drivers must complete 44 and 56 core competencies, respectively.

The apprenticeship program is also designed to help marketers retain employees. Mississippi-based Sayle Propane is one of the first retailers to participate as an apprentice sponsor, according to NPGA.

“Sayle Propane is experiencing a very tight labor market in our service area,” says Chuck Clement, director of operations. “Apprenticeship programs have been very successful in comparable industries over the years. We felt like it could help our company set up a formal curriculum to train and develop new employees with little previous experience.”

About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) was the managing editor at LP Gas magazine.

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