ITD and the Idaho Department of Labor are collaborating in a project that will help veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan find meaningful employment in the transportation field.
Michelle George of ITD’s Human Resource Services office, and Chris Ramos of the Department of Labor wrote the application that resulted in a $99,300 grant from the Federal Highway Administration. Michael Caliendo, a program analyst and civil rights specialist for the FHWA office in Idaho, assisted with the grant application.
“We are excited to partner with FHWA and the Department of Labor to make the new program available to veterans who were injured in service,” Harker said. “The training will better position qualifying veterans for employment at ITD or in the private sector.
“This program also fits well with our plan to continue expanding outreach efforts so as to broaden ITD’s pool of applicants. This training program is a win/win and gives our veterans opportunities they might otherwise not have had,” Harker added.
Ramos said the Department of Labor identified the need to create a training program for veterans several years ago. In response to department surveys, many veterans indicated interest in obtaining credentials for driving heavy equipment and trucks.
The Department of Labor had no Commercial Driver’s License program for veterans, so Ramos enthusiastically joined the Wounded Warrior training initiative.
Individuals who complete the first round of training will have both a CDL and Veterans preference points to enhance their job prospects, said Ramos, who is the Veteran’s Coordinator for the labor department.
The new program is targeted primarily to disabled veterans recently returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. Other priority groups, in order, include recent returning veterans who do not have a disability and any veteran regardless of when discharged.
The new Wounded Warrior training assistance program will help wounded veterans:
Grant funding will enable wounded veterans to enter the Larry Seland College (College of Western Idaho) truck driving school and provide training for others interested in flagging jobs associated with highway construction.
“Boise and the surrounding communities of Meridian, Nampa and Caldwell are the most populated areas in the state of Idaho,” according to the grant application. “Consequently, this area has the greatest need for this type of program. With an overall unemployment rate of 8 percent throughout the Treasure Valley, (at the time of the grant application) we find ourselves in dire need of a vehicle to lend support to our returning veterans….”
Ramos hopes to serve 10-12 Treasure Valley veterans during initial grant and obtain funds next year to expand the program statewide. He expects the average cost per person to be between $4,500 and $6,000, plus additional training for those who want to become qualified as flaggers.
The CDL program is expected to take about four months to complete, depending on the experience and skill level veterans bring to the program, Ramos said.
Instruction will begin after July 1, but the Department of Labor will participate in an April 1 career fair at the Nampa Civic Center to help veterans begin the application process.
“That should catapult us into the next program, which we hope to provide for veterans statewide, next year,” Ramos said.
Funds are part of about $30 million awarded nationwide for training under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, said FHWA’s Caliendo. He began working with ITD about two years ago to put the department in a position to apply for and receive special FHWA funds. The Wounded Warrior grant application process took about 10 months because of expanded requirements of the stimulus program.
Caliendo also is working with George and Elizabeth Healess on several other federal transportation/training grants in partnership with Idaho State University, Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Idaho Department of Correction, College of Western Idaho, Nampa School District and the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council.
Healess received grant funding for Safety Fest from the current funding pool.
All of the new grant projects for ITD in next federal fiscal year represent about $1.2 million, if fully funded, Caliendo said.
George and Harker were notified of the grant award in January. Several other grant applications have been initiated or are being considered, George said.