A state grant is paying for at least 30 students to pass the Chemeketa’s CDL program, with the promise of a family wage job immediately upon completion.

SALEM, Ore. — Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon is offering a free, four-week training program to help people earn a commercial drivers license (CDL).

“This training is a 160 hours, it’s four weeks long, and you can come out of it with a job that’s paying you $60,000-plus dollars a year,” said Paul Davis, the college’s dean for career and technical education.

The program is paid for by a grant from Future Ready Oregon Funds. The Chemeketa Community College course plans to train at least 30 students to get their CDL before June 30.

The need for drivers with a CDL is high. Davis said a recent check of the Department of Labor jobs board showed more than 1,000 open CDL positions in Oregon.

Companies are offering competitive wages to entice new drivers, something that convinced 18-year-old Miguel Sanchez to enter the profession.

“There’s not a lot of young truck drivers on the road nowadays,” said Sanchez, who just started the training program at the college.

Danielle Henderson, a former school teacher and single mother of three, said she was looking for a change, a challenge and better pay.

“I left the school industry to have a better income,” she said. “With the way things are going in the world right now, we need to make more money, right? We need to be able to survive. I had no history and no background in backing up trailers or driving big trucks and came here to Chemeketa and learned how to do that.”

Henderson said she was hired at the first job she applied for, a local company in Salem. “I enjoy it very much,” she said.

While the stated goal is to get 30 drivers through the CDL training, the college just acquired a second training rig, theoretically allowing them to double student capacity. You can learn more at this link.

“This is an amazing opportunity for someone in the community that wants a very well-paying occupation,” Davis said.

The grant money was awarded from the $200-million Future Ready Oregon fund, which was established by the 2022 Oregon State Legislature. The money from the fund is designated specifically for advancing opportunities for historically underserved communities. 

Chris McGinness is a meteorologist and reporter for KGW. Got a story idea or a great photo you want to share? Email him at cmcginness@kgw.com or reach out on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

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