Written by Megan Bednar
[Clinton, N.C.]– A little known fact about Sampson Community College (SCC) is that it currently operates one of the largest Truck Driver Training programs in the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). Since 2007, 711 individuals have successfully completed the CDL course through SCC, and 573 students have gone on to pass the N.C. CDL DMV test. In honor of Mr. Bill Prestage and his recent passing, SCC reflects on the vast impact Prestage Farms, Inc. has had on the College’s Truck Driver Training program over the years— including their recent donation of three much-needed Mack truck cabs in 2022.
In 2007, SCC began initial development on the Truck Driver Training program at the College. According to Dr. Bill Starling, President of SCC, no one ever questioned the need for the program—Sampson County agriculture truly depended on trucking. The new program’s purpose was to professionally train and prepare truck drivers for successful careers in the workforce, helping meet the growing need for CDL holders in N.C. and positively impacting both the regional and national economy. However, the startup costs were beyond the College’s capacity. Even with instructors, explained Dr. Starling, the cost of trucks and a driving site were insurmountable.
That’s when Prestage Farms, Inc., a family-run business native to Sampson County, stepped in. By donating two Mack trucks and granting SCC access to the parking lot at Prestage-owned Ag ProVision, LLC in Duplin County, the trucking program grew and developed until funds were secured to build the new 12-acre training site in Clinton’s Industrial Park.
Because of the steady, longtime partnership between SCC and Prestage Farms, Inc., the Truck Driver Training site now sits in the Sampson Southeast Business Center, an established industrial park in Clinton, N.C., that houses DuBose Strapping, DuBose National Energy Service, Schindler (Escalator division), UFP Mid Atlantic, Coastal AgroBusiness, Hog Slat, Mary Mack’s, and other light industrial companies, in addition to SCC’s public Truck Driver Training School.
In 2022, Prestage once again showcased its continuous support of the College and its students by generously donating three vital Mack truck cabs to the growing Truck Driver Training program. Because of their generosity, SCC can continue to provide local students with a safe and reliable public truck driving experience that prepares them for successful and prosperous careers in the workforce.
Dr. Starling voiced about the recent gift, “During our Fall 2022 semester, we saw thirty-eight students enrolled in the truck driving class on a new 12-acre driving training center in the Industrial Park. They were taught by four full-time faculty and a program director. Outside the classroom over a dozen rigs emblazed with the SCC Viking waiting to be used for training. The Truck Driver Training program at SCC has truly come a long way since its beginning, thanks to numerous contributions and partnerships from various supporters like Prestage Farms. Partnerships such as this allow the College to meet the training needs of local agriculture and give so many folks access to affordable jobs. We are ever grateful for Prestage’s support of Sampson Community College and the economic opportunities they continue to provide across our service area.”
Similarly, Lisa Turlington, Dean of Advancement and Executive Director of the SCC Foundation, gratefully remarked, “Prestage is a longtime friend of the College and has been critical to the success of many of our programs including Truck Driver Training. This gift is especially notable at this time when the value of these vehicles is at a premium, and supply chain issues are a challenge in replacing them. Both the Foundation and College are thankful for the Prestage Family’s continued support.”
SCC’s Truck Driver Training Program, part of the Workforce Development & Continuing Education (WD&CE) division at the College, gives students the opportunity to earn their Class A CDL. The program is Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Entry Level Driver Training compliant and is listed on the FMCSA Trainer Provider Registry. It offers both day and night (plus weekend) classes that provide intensive classroom and vehicle training, with safety being the central focus.
Coursework includes vehicle inspections, general operation and maintenance, on the road driving, backing and maneuvering, defensive driving, federal motor carrier safety regulations, trip planning, cargo handling, size and weight regulations, hours of service rules, and accident prevention. To register, students must be at least 18 years old, have a valid N.C. driver’s license, pass a DOT physical, and obtain a CDL Class A Learner’s Permit prior to class start.
Kevin Randolph, Director of Transportation at SCC, has first-handedly seen the effect that Prestage has had on the continued development and quality of the training program at the College. Because of the longtime partnership between SCC and Prestage, the College continues to successfully operate one of the largest truck driver training programs in N.C, with hopes of running two independent training fields in the near future.
“The donation of these units is deeply appreciated as they add reliability and capability to our training field operation,” Randolph expressed. “Our existing Mack day cab tractors are well worn and have been breakdown prone of late. Added reliability and capability is accomplished by having additional modern, reliable equipment to expand the training field side of our hands on training. It is our goal to be able to run two training fields completely independent of each other, simultaneously. We at Sampson Community College are grateful for the generosity of Prestage Farms in their consideration of us as a resource to invest in.”
Amanda Bradshaw, Dean of WD&CE, continued, “Partnerships are the foundation for all that we do here at Sampson Community College. Without partnerships we are unable to identify or meet community workforce needs. Prestage continues to be a willing and generous partner to not only the College but across our community. Prestage has been a partner of the SCC Truck Driver Training program since its inception. They share a deep trust with the College in knowing that the donated units will allow for workforce training needs to be met not just for them but for many industries in Sampson and across the region. Our deepest gratitude is extended to them for this generous donation but more importantly we appreciate their continued trust in the College to shape and build today’s workforce.”
Jesse Sumner, Production Coordinator at Prestage Farms, Inc. remarked upon SCC’s consistent ability to recruit and effectively train individuals since 1967. Sumner explained that through programs such as Truck Driver Training, the College allows for a much shorter transition time to recruitment and employment by local businesses. He voiced that Prestage Farms, Inc. recognizes the substantial effect SCC has had in developing the local economy and workforce over the years and mentioned that they hope to continue their partnership with the College for years to come.
Speaking on behalf of Prestage Farms, Sumner stated, “Sampson Community College continues to appeal to local individuals who would like to change careers by taking night or weekend classes—something I believe is instrumental in the success of the Trucking Driver Program. It’s amazing how applicants can continue in their existing jobs, while training for a new career. The recent gift of three commercial tractors builds upon the strong, long-time commitment that the Prestage Family has given not only the Trucking Driver program but other Agriculture related programs at SCC. Prestage Farms looks forward to continuing to grow with SCC.”
Sampson CC extends its deepest condolences at the recent passing of Mr. Bill Prestage. The College is immensely grateful for the continuous support Prestage Farms, Inc. and the Prestage Family has shown the College over the years. Their family continues to be a leading influencer of N.C. agriculture in all they do– both in their business and support of student success through SCC and the Foundation. The College will truly remember the vast impact Prestage Farms has had on the Truck Driver Training Program for years to come.
For more information about the Truck Driver Training Program or how to enroll, visit www.sampsoncc.edu/truck
About Sampson Community College: Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.
About Prestage Farms: Prestage Farms, Inc., corporate headquarters, is a multi-generational family-owned and operated, industry-leading turkey and pork producer and processor located near Clinton, NC. Established in 1983 by Bill and Marsha Prestage, today, Prestage serves across the South, Southeast, and the Midwest with their dedicated team of employees and growers through both Prestage Farms and Prestage Foods®. A proud member of The National Turkey Federation, The National Pork Producers Council, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and Pork Checkoff, Prestage works to continue their family legacy of integrity and innovation in pork and turkey production. www.prestagefarms.com, 4651 Taylors Bridge Highway, PO Box 438 (28329-0438), Clinton, NC 28328-8064, Phone: 910.592.5771.