LIMA — With Lima’s minority population still dealing with high levels of unemployment, the Lima NAACP is praising the efforts of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Division 1 to foster minority employment through its apprenticeship program.
District Deputy Director Kirk Slusher met with NAACP President Ronald Fails and other members of the local executive committee to discuss how efforts to foster minority employment in the department have progressed since the two first met to discuss the issue nearly a year ago.
“Our apprenticeship program, as a whole, is a program to bring individuals in without (commercial driver’s licenses), which is usually the standard for our entry level positions,” Slusher said. “We, as an agency, have struggled mightily in attracting class-A or class-B CDL holders because of the trucking industry. So, for us, offering an apprenticeship program that brings individuals in without a CDL where we can give them the training and tanker endorsement and train them in the number of things that we do as an agency, provides greater opportunity for us in hiring full-time, permanent employees.”
ODOT had three minority apprentices in 2015, working 32 hours a week at $15.22-per-hour wages, with Ivory Austin II eventually hired full-time as a highway technician.
“My experience with the program was very unique,” he said. “Coming from the inner city, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to be in tractor-trailers. It helped me gained the knowledge and skills to make myself a better person.”
Fails praised ODOT for addressing minority employment levels in the department, along with reaching out to minority contractors to get involved in projects.
“This is how to address the income equality and the double-digit unemployment,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity through what Kirk has done. He has stepped up to accept the challenge so that together, as a community, we can change this reality.”
ODOT hopes to expand the apprenticeship program, hoping to hire 24 temporary employees throughout the district who do not hold a CDL, with at least five positions in Allen County. The apprenticeship program runs from the end of May through November with the opportunity for winter seasonal employment afterward. Positions are listed at http://ohiomeansjobs.com.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.