DANE CO., Wis. (WMTV) – A pipeline program leading to trucking jobs in Dane County is expanding.

The Urban League of Greater Madison, which offers a range of free job training and coaching services, runs a hands-on program that helps people obtain a commercial driver’s license.

Terry Birts, who works in workforce development at Urban League, said the nonprofit has offered the free program for five years in partnership with the County Department of Highways and Transportation. Dane and the Latino Academy for Workforce Development.

“Often the avenues are not open. You have to go to a school where it’s maybe a little out of your price range because the training isn’t cheap in a lot of places,” Birts said. “But by coming to us, we are working with you. We have the partnerships. We have instructors and we can make it more accessible for you.

He said up to 80 people had graduated from the program, including Craig Weatherby.

Weatherby was in the first class of interns and is now a county employee. Among his roles, he drives county trucks, including snowplows and dump trucks.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life,” he said. He remembers truck rides as well as Tonka toy trucks from his childhood.

“It’s a win-win. We get workers, [and] they learn the skills they need to be able to get a CDL,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Parisi said qualified drivers are answers to a need in the economy.

“We’re really seeing moving forward, not just in county government but everywhere, the demand for people with a CDL is really great. We see it especially now with the shortage of truckers,” he said.

Weatherby said five of his colleagues from the highway department were also trained in the pipeline program.

According to Birts, the Urban League now plans to develop another practical academy this summer, towards careers in solar energy.

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