CDL Training Delivers New Career Options

CDL Training Delivers New Career Options Main Photo

3 Jun 2022


Career transition can be a stressful experience for anyone. The task can be incredibly intimidating for individuals in their 60s. When Douglas Mason was laid off at that age, he knew he wanted to keep working but was unsure how to start the process of finding a new job. He quickly found a new career without significant financial impact by accessing the Dislocated Worker Program through CareerForce and the Minnesota Rural Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP).

“I was able to get the training and assistance to get my CDL through the help of the CareerForce staff that will keep me working for ten or fifteen more years,” he said.

Mason found himself in late 2019 without a job after being laid off from Norbord Minnesota, where he had worked as a process support employee for more than 20 years. He worked with the CareerForce Bemidji office and, through its Interest Profile test, developed a plan to get a CDL Class A license. He thought he would enjoy driving, based on his experience driving on his farm and school buses back in the ‘80s.

“I also knew the jobs were in high demand due to a shortage of drivers,” he said. “More than anything, I saw it as a good-paying job that I can do until I am 80!”

CareerForce helped Mason enroll at Advanced Minnesota in Hibbing, where he attended classes for approximately ten weeks. Mason was highly thankful for the financial aid CareerForce was able to arrange.

“It is expensive to change careers, especially because there is a cost to the training before you have an income or before even taking tests to get a CDL,” he said. “The grant money was able to pay for the course, required books and even gas vouchers for my drive from Bemidji to Hibbing to attend classes.”

Upon completion in mid-2020, he obtained his CDL Class A License, with a Tanker/HAZMAT certification. CareerForce personnel worked with him continuously on possible job openings, but COVID-19 put a damper on those.

“Businesses were shut down, and I was a little worried about the pandemic, trying to keep a lower profile and staying home more than I would have liked,” said Mason. “But Deb Warren at CareerForce was accommodating, keeping in contact with me until I could find work again.”

By September 2021, Mason was working with Knife River as a driver/runner, earning nearly $18 per hour and close to $30 per hour for overtime. 

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, both driving locally and over-the-road driving experience with tanker trucks to North Dakota,” he said.

In addition, he drives charter buses for Bemidji Bus Lines, primarily for sporting events for Rainy River Community College, Bemidji State University and local high schools.

“I enjoy driving because it helps me meet people outside my hometown of Bemidji,” he said. “Plus, it has been fascinating to drive some of the new semi-trucks, with all the new equipment like the auto idle shut-off and pollution control. The new keys don't even look like keys!” 

Dislocated Worker program

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED) Dislocated Worker Program is designed to help workers get back to work as quickly as possible. The services specifically address employment barriers like skill transfer, work experience, formal training or education and earning potential. Services are custom-tailored to meet workers’ specific needs and include career counseling, job placement, training and planning. MN DEED’s fact sheet on the Dislocated Worker Program is an excellent resource. 

RMCEP is a private, non-profit corporation that provides quality workforce development services in a nineteen county area in North Central and West Central Minnesota with a vision to be viewed by customers and prospective customers as the leader in employability development services in the state. The agency is in its 52 year of operating employment and training programs, including services of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the primary federal workforce development legislation.