From Homeless to a Career on the Open Road: COD Student Finds Success Through CDL Program
By Mike McKissack
After several years of living at a homeless shelter, former College of DuPage student Joseph Miller wanted a change. Unhappy with his living situation and determined to make a better life for himself, he set his sights on the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program.
It was a move that would provide Miller stability in the form of a new career.
“Being in those circumstances can be very challenging,” he said. “It’s not a supportive environment.”
Interested in getting his CDL but unsure about how to pay for the program, the 61-year-old reached out to the workNet DuPage Career Center and was able to secure funding for his training. Despite facing criticism and negativity from those who thought his age would be an obstacle, Miller completed the program CDL program and secured employment working as an over-the-road driver, hauling a refrigerator truck, known as a “reefer” in trucking vernacular. He currently has his own apartment in Villa Park, though being on the road means he isn’t home often.
CDL Instructor Chris Bell said Miller was dedicated throughout his training to improving his circumstances.
“When Joe started his CDL training at College of DuPage, he faced multiple challenges,” said Bell. “I noticed right away how determined he was to make it work. Barrier after barrier, he continued to work hard to get to class each day, stay motivated and get through each portion of our program. Joe now has a great job with TransAm Trucking. He recently stopped by with his truck and was so proud of all he accomplished in such a short period. It feels great knowing that our program was able to make a difference in his life and help him get back on his feet.”
A self-described “blue jeans kind of guy,” Miller said that while driving over the road can be challenging and stressful at times, he’s enjoying his work behind the wheel.
“I love being on the road,” he said. “I’ve had an interest in driving a truck since I was younger but it didn’t come about until now. It’s fun and you get to see a lot of the country.”
He said the program provided him with the perfect opportunity to begin a new career.
“The CDL program at COD is great,” he said. “The faculty and staff really know their stuff. They, along with the school and even the other students, were very supportive both in the classroom and on the road. Plus, the program prepares you well to enter the field.”
Miller also recommended the program to other students with an interest in driving or looking for a new career.
“If I guy my age can do it, anybody can,” he said.
The CDL program at College of DuPage enables students to be trained, licensed and ready for employment in as little as six weeks. Featuring classroom time, hands-on over-the-road driving time and experienced instructors, the program exceeds all requirements of the Illinois Secretary of State to test for a CDL. In addition, the CDL program is on COD’s approved list for Workforce Investment Act funding, and job placement assistance is provided both during the program and after licensure.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 25,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.
(Pictured, from left: Chris Bell and Joe Miller)
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