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Course gives girls view behind wheel

Big rigs offer big potential

Jill Schramm/MDN Lilly Jundt checks her instrument panel as she practices truck driving on a simulator at the Minot Area Workforce academy during the Women in Trucking event held Saturday to expose girls to the industry.

Lilly Jundt could see herself as a truck driver someday and figured the Women in Trucking event for girls last Saturday would be a good first step.

Although she went into it not knowing what to expect, the event didn’t disappoint.

“I think I am more interested because I know more about it,” she said.

The first event of its type hosted by the Minot Area Workforce Academy, the course drew 10 girls from grades six to 10, representing various Minot schools. They learned about pre-trip inspections on a semi as well as bus operation and emergency procedures. They heard from a panel of women in trucking, participated in backing drills with a golf cart and small trailer and tried out a driving simulator.

Layla Bartlett had watched a truck-driving simulator at Minot Air Force Base, where her father works as a civil engineer, but was able to experience it for herself Saturday. Bartlett attended the event out of curiosity and enjoyed it.

Aspen Ahrens operates the controls to move a garbage cart using a truck crane during the Women in Trucking event at the Minot Area Workforce Academy Saturday. Participating girls shown, from left, are Layla Bartlett, Theresa White, Lilly Jundt and Ahrens. Instructor Leverrett Larsen offers guidance at right.

“It’s really fun,” she said, identifying the exploration of a truck with a crane as a highlight.

Offering the course would not have been possible without the newly opened workforce academy, said Pam Stroklund, Minot Public School’s Career and Technical Education director. The center was able to accommodate a semi and bus indoors along with providing two simulators.

“Having the space to do these programs hands-on has been wonderful,” she said.

The event also was made possible with the support of the bus and trucking industry, which provided equipment, instruction assistance and panelists.

Farden sisters Lila, 20, and Samantha, 18, of Maxbass, spoke to the participants about their experiences in trucking.

Jill Schramm/MDN Bus driver Benito Isla explains bus safety to a group of girls participatingin a workshop on commercial driving Saturday at the Minot Area Workforce Academy.

Lila Farden operates equipment, drives and works in the office at the family business, Farden Construction. Samantha Farden also works in the business, although she is just getting into a driving role.

Growing up in the industry, Lila Farden said, she was interested in the opportunities available with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and in the people she would get to meet.

“Being out there on the road and kind of being out in different communities, you get to see a lot and you get to be part of different communities,” she said.

“It’s very fun to do things that nobody else does,” Samantha Farden said of being in a nontraditional career for women.

Career and industry tracking agencies report 12-17% of professional truck drivers are female, with about 7% engaged in long-haul trucking. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists women at 11.9% of the truck transportation workforce in 2023. However, women make up a larger share of certain portions of the industry, such as nearly 40% in company leadership, according to Women in Trucking Index, which compiles voluntarily submitted data.

“Being a woman, you’re never really held back,” Lila Farden said. “I feel like the industry is very welcoming.”

The biggest challenge in getting into the industry as a driver is meeting the requirements to be permitted and eventually licensed, the Farden sisters said.

“It’s not hard to learn how to drive but it’s all the requirements of passing all the tests,” Samantha Farden said.

Their parents, Steve and Teralyn Farden said the demand for employees with CDLs significantly exceeds the supply in North Dakota.

“It’s really an employee-driven market right now. Everybody is looking for CDL drivers,” Teralyn Farden said. “You make a very good living in North Dakota. Some jobs are seasonal. Some are year-round. So, lots of availability of jobs, and lots of employers willing to help train and educate.”

Steve Farden added that CDL-training programs such as the one offered to high school students through the Minot Area Workforce Academy is huge for young people who want to get into the career.

Farden Construction has had a number of women who have worked for the company over the years. Steve Farden said his daughters are looking at trucking as side jobs to help out in the family business, but the company has another young female employee who is thriving as a regular driver. He notices that women bring an atmosphere to a work site that improves everyone’s performance.

Lila Farden’s advice to girls thinking about getting a CDL is just do it. Putting it off only increases the chance of never getting around to doing it at all, she said. There’s no reason to be intimidated, Samantha Farden added.

“Put your best foot forward,” she said, “and you can do anything that’s within your limits.”

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