Railroad program on track for final phase

After much planning and construction, the final phase of implementing the first Railroad Conductor Certificate program in Minnesota is in progress on Dakota County Technical College’s Rosemount campus.

Donated rail cars are scheduled to arrive in Rosemount, be disassembled, transported by truck along County Road 42 and then reassembled on DCTC’s recently installed on-campus rail yard.

The rail yard is located behind the main building on DCTC’s campus. The track is a quarter-mile in length, complete with two switches, which are mechanical installations where the track divides into two different tracks.

Beginning this October, students in the inaugural run of the program will use the rail yard for hands-on development of their skills. A Trackmobile will move the rail cars, allowing students in the program to practice switching, coupling and communicating with an engineer. The students began their training on Sept. 6, largely focusing on classroom activities, and are anxious to put their knowledge into action.

Development and implementation of the Railroad Conductor Certificate program at DCTC began at the request of the Class-I railroads. In 2001, the government amended the National Railroad Retirement Act, making it possible for conductors with at least 30 years of service to receive full retirement benefits at age 60. As a result, many veterans are eligible for retirement over the next decade, leaving a shortage of trained conductors. Furthering the need are projections by the railroad industry for a 50% increase in commerce over the next decade.

With such a high demand for trained employees, DCTC recognized an excellent opportunity for students and the railway alike. In 2004, a proposal was submitted to the major railways in the region to allow DCTC to have the first Railroad Conductor Certificate program in the state. Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and several other regional railways accepted the proposal and assisted DCTC in the process of making the program a reality.

To offset the startup costs, DCTC was awarded a $350,000 grant in August by the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership. This funding allowed DCTC to obtain the equipment and facilities necessary to house the training and ensure students are prepared to enter the industry. The railroad consortium has also contributed over $1,000,000 in equipment, classroom materials and curriculum development.

If you have any questions regarding the Railroad Conductor Certificate program, please contact Larry Raddatz at 651-423-8276.