ST. CLOUD - Students, educators and local legislators skipped the traditional shovel ceremony Monday afternoon, and instead honked a semi truck horn to celebrate the start of renovations to St. Cloud Technical and Community College's Medium/Heavy Truck and Auto Body Department.

The college was awarded $4 million in bonding money last spring to approximately double the existing space for the popular department.

SCTCC Dean of Trades Bruce Peterson says up to now, the size of the facility prevented students from being able to work on full-sized tractor-trailers, which is crucial to learning the industry.

Peterson says the industry is suffering for qualified drivers and technicians, in Minnesota and nation-wide. Nearly every student in the Medium/Heavy Truck Program is hired after their first semester - something he says speaks to the importance of the trucking industry in central Minnesota.

The new facility is slated to be finished in the fall of 2013.