Fresno truck driving school brings people out of welfare and into the driver’s seat

People living off welfare in Fresno, California have an opportunity to secure a career in the trucking industry, and the opportunity is expanding thanks to a private land and business owner’s partnership with the Economic Development Commission.

Two and a half years ago, land and business owner John Lawson knew there was something better he could be doing with his property, so when the need to fill trucking positions at his business came up in a meeting with the Economic Development Commission, he and EDC member Leann Eager came up with an idea that could solve the economic woes of individuals and the trucking industry- a truck driving school aimed at helping people get out of welfare and into trucking jobs.

According to ABC 30, Lawson is the owner of Lawson Rock and Oil in the city of Fresno, a company that utilizes big rigs, and says that running a welfare-to-work trucking school does more than just help needy people, it helps his business, too.

“When you’ve got the truck driving school on your property, you get your pick of the best ones in class,” he explained.

The class is free for those on welfare and lasts a total of 240 hours. Since it’s opening several years ago, 138 people have been trained, and 82% of those went on to secure a job in the trucking industry.

“We take them out in traffic here out on the freeways, they learn the gear shifting. They learn the components of the truck, how to do a proper pre-trip, inspect their vehicle,” said Glen Wills, a truck driving instructor at the Fresno school.

“Everybody that wants a job, can get a job. And in the welfare to work world, 82 percent is miraculous,” said Eager, who is the Fresno County EDC President, and CEO.

Initially, the New Employment Opportunities program pays the new welfare-to-work truck driver’s salary, which usually begins at $15 an hour. Then, after the initial three week period, the company chooses whether or not to continue employment of the newly trained driver.

“It’s pretty incredible getting in the truck and feeling so much power,” said Breanna Luna, a newly trained truck driver from the welfare-to-work program who is currently employed at Lawson Rock and Oil.

“It was never that I didn’t want to work, it was just that I never had the opportunity to do something that I wanted to do. So when it did arise [through this program], I went for it,” she said.

So far, the program has been so successful that Lawson and Eager plan to open another school in a different part of the city.

“This is so huge we are going to start a second one. Our current one is in Southwest Fresno and our new one is going to be in Southeast Fresno. We’re partnering with the Fairgrounds to have the training over there,” Eager said.

Anyone interested in the welfare-to-work truck driving training may visit the EDC website here.