Partnership creates truck driver training for refugees

By Carmelyn M. Daley-Hinkens

Somali and Afghan refugees are getting the training they need to pursue family-sustaining wage employment through a partnership between Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) and the Hidden Talent Project from the Bay Area Workforce Development Board.

The project is funded by more than $1.6 million from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development through the Worker Advancement Initiative, which was announced by Gov. Tony Evers late last year.

FVTC will offer a customized truck driver training program that will prepare students to earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Each cohort of students will take a permit class, complete necessary testing through the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles, and return to FVTC for behind-the-wheel training with college instructors. A final test will be administered and trainees who pass will earn a Class A CDL.

“By partnering with our local workforce board, we are helping address a gap in the transportation industry by delivering a specialized truck driver training program for populations with untapped potential,” FVTC President Chris Matheny said. “We are uniquely qualified to provide this training and look forward to training Afghan and Somali newcomers as they prepare for a successful career in this in-demand field.”

The Hidden Talent Project connects underrepresented racial/ethnic populations, justice-involved individuals, and long-term unemployed individuals with services and programs to assist them in reentering the workforce.

“It is exciting to see how the workforce boards are using the funds to make a lasting impact at the local level,” said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. “In the Bay Area, the funds are being used to connect Somali and Afghan refugees with employment opportunities, training them for in-demand jobs in Wisconsin to meet business needs.”

The board partnered with COMSA, a community-based organization that provides critical resettlement support to Somali and Afghan refugees in the greater Green Bay and Fox Valley areas.

“Partnering with COMSA significantly strengthens our existing workforce development system and will lead to increased workforce participation, adding desperately needed talent to our local employer base,” said Matt Valiquette, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board. “The funding we received allows for tremendous flexibility to provide wrap-around, comprehensive services. And, everything we’re doing with the Hidden Talent project can be sustained indefinitely through our traditional workforce development programs and services.”

Pechacek, along with Valiquette and leaders from New North, COMSA, African Heritage Inc., and Abaxent toured the J.J. Keller Transportation Center at Fox Valley Technical College and met the Somali and Afghan refugees who are currently receiving commercial driver’s license training. They are the second cohort of students to start the truck driving program.

This article was originally posted here.

Carmelyn M. Daley-Hinkens

is the public relations and content manager at Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin.