When he graduated high school, Knox County resident Andrew Garrison faced a question that many young adults do: What am I going to do with my life?
“I pretty much worked at Kroger for a while, but I wanted to learn how to drive,” Garrison says, adjusting his seat in the offices of KCEOC Kentucky Career Center JobSight in Barbourville, Ky.
Garrison explains that by driving he didn’t mean just any old car—he wanted to drive big rigs. Getting his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) was a dream passed down from his uncles and father, who had all driven trucks for as long as he could remember.
Unfortunately, that dream had to be put on hold until he turned 21—the legal CDL driving age—so Garrison bided his time. Three years as a Kroger associate passed quickly, and by January 2018 it was time to explore his options.
Garrison had learned about the programs offered through KCEOC years ago while he was in high school, thanks to expert career advisor Ali Hill.
A partner in the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, KCEOC provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Knox County, under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP). Those services include programs for adults, dislocated workers, and for in-school and out-of-school youth who may need assistance honing skills such as résumé building or networking with local employers, or who need assistance being retrained or going to school.
“I talked to Ali about doing CDL school but you know how that goes, you either have funds or you don’t, and she didn’t,” Garrison says, explaining that at that time the funds for out-of-school youth, the program he qualified for, had been exhausted and wouldn’t be replenished until later that year.
Garrison was set on becoming a CDL driver and decided to continue to wait it out. In the meantime, his brother helped him movie on from his tenure as a Kroger associate to a better paying job at a truck wash in Corbin, Ky.
Eventually, Garrison took a recommendation from his girlfriend to look into lineman school instead of waiting for CDL school to work out. He made an appointment to speak with Hill again in August 2018, and she was quickly able to get him enrolled in the upcoming Spring 2019 class. Yet again, though, Garrison was hit with another roadblock—this one coming from within.
“Climbing poles, that’s not for a 250-pound guy, you know,” he says, laughing. “I kind of thought the truck driving school would be a lot quicker, it’s actually what I wanted to do, so I really sat down and thought it through. I thought it was a better decision for me.”
By November 2018, Garrison had made up his mind to drop out of the lineman program and try again to enroll in the CDL program. This time, Hill had great news for him.
“We had a meeting about it and she said she could do it,” he says, a smile spreading across his face.
Garrison started his CDL training in London, Ky., in mid January 2019, and two weeks later he was finished.
“They let you practice on all of these simulators and trucks, it pretty much gets you ready for the driving test—it’s like a regular driving test, just in a semi,” Garrison explains. “The school really gets you ready to pass all that you need to so you can pass your test.”
And that’s exactly what Garrison was able to do on his first try.
Without KCEOC’s assistance, Garrison says he would likely have never been able to afford the CDL training on his own.
“When it comes down to it, money is always an issue. Even with me getting assistance from my parents it still wouldn’t have been enough for that class. I mean, it’s a $4,000 or $5,000 class, and when you need help, it (KCEOC) really helped me out,” he says.
Now, Garrison says he shouldn’t have to worry as much about finances with his CDL in his pocket.
“As of right now it’s different because it’s kind of like I have a degree, like my dad’s always told me, it’s like having a degree in your pocket,” Garrison explains. “When I go, say, on Indeed and I start looking at jobs, I can look for jobs that offer $50,000 to $100,000 a year. Not just anybody can do that.”
A few weeks after being interviewed, Garrison learned that he had landed a driving job with Pepsi, and is still employed there today.
Garrison says his future looks very bright from his vantage point thanks in great part to KCEOC.
“If you’re needing assistance, and I know a lot of people do, and you just want to better yourself, I would definitely recommend KCEOC,” he says.
EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services and operates the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, which provide access to more than a dozen state and federal programs that offer employment and training assistance for jobseekers and employers all under one roof. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.