Factories and meat-packing plants are still running at full operation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting how important transportation is and how essential reliable drivers are for delivering supplies and services. With that in mind, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development has launched the “Transportation is Essential” campaign to raise funds to be able to train and support more drivers.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Transportation Academy has been of our most popular and successful training programs just because of what it offers. It’s really an opportunity for folks to advance financially,” Baltazar De Anda Santana, executive director of the Latino Academy of Workforce Development, tells Madison365. “Once you get your CDL [Commercial Driver’s License] Class A or B, then you can be placed in employment opportunities that range between $18-30 an hour.”
The Latino Academy of Workforce Development provides bilingual, culturally-responsive adult education programming for workforce development and has become a regional leader in supporting unemployed/underemployed Latinos and non-Latinos through the process of career advancement. Its Transportation Academy has been one of its most successful programs during COVID.
“The Latino Academy normally has two cohorts with no more than 20 people that we can serve. This year, we want to be more proactive and be able to serve 50 students,” De Anda Santana says.
In order to do that, they will need more funding and that’s why they’ve launched the Transportation is Essential campaign. The Latino Academy invests approximately $3,000 per participant from program enrollment to job placement and job retention. So far, they have raised, through the support of funders, almost half of what is required to meet this goal. Their new “Transportation is Essential” campaign hopes to raise the rest.
“We wanted to see who might want to rent space [to place a company logo] on the semi-truck,” De Anda Santana says. “That truck drives all over the city and the county so we want to make sure that we could take advantage of that. Our goal is to raise $100,000 in 2021.”
“We will be reaching out specifically to employers and to corporations for our sponsors,” he adds. “This is an important program and it really changes lives and that changes our community.”
To date, 88 graduates have obtained their Commercial Driver’s License Class A or B through the Latino Academy’s Transportation Academy. The current campaign is connecting many adults with secure, meaningful, and family-sustaining careers.
“For people who are working 40 hours, they get paid good money plus benefits. I always tell folks that we want to get employment opportunities for our students to live comfortable lives and for them to have options,” De Anda Santana says. “That’s when we will really rise: when we are living comfortably like other community members; instead of working five jobs and not being able to spend time with our families.
“I think this program presents that opportunity,” he adds. “Folks can work 9-5 and have benefits, just like everybody else in this city.”
The funds raised through Transportation is Essential Campaign not only will go towards training the students, but providing case management, support, job placement and retention.
“I always tell people that it’s not that difficult to get a CDL Class B,” De Anda Santana says. “The difficulty is to make sure that we provide that comprehensive support and case management so you can be successful — not just getting a job, but staying in a job.”
De Anda Santana encourages people who want to support the “Transportation is Essential” campaign to visit the website.
“There are some folks that may not be able to donate to the program but want to do something else, they can go and check out all of our programs at the website and check things out,” he says. “At the Latino Academy, we want to keep continuing to invest in what works when it comes to training and when it comes to getting employment for folks. Otherwise, we will continue in the same circle. I think this program, the Transporation Academy, offers a great opportunity for the students.