Imagine spending your days with your hands deep in soil, pulling weeds and tending crops under the heat of the Virginia sun. For many in rural parts of the Commonwealth, this is a way of life, and as Ryan describes it for those who live on the Eastern Shore:
“You either work on the water or you work on the land.”
Ryan’s family chose land, and after high school, he found himself working in the field on an organic farm. The work was hard but honest, and the pay allowed him to get annual raises. It also funded Ryan’s ongoing educational pursuits.
“Working in the fields in the summer, you start by getting paid $7.25 an hour. I paid my way through community college, I got my associate degree and by then, I basically worked the top of my field, capped out at $14,” Ryan said. “I am bilingual, ran two crews, the equipment, the whole operation. But by 23, I was spinning my wheels.”
At that point, Ryan found himself a gig as a subcontractor with a power company. He’d drive around and read meters, but he saw the writing on the wall.
“I heard the meter reading was going to go digital and that the positions were going to disappear,” he said. “I heard about the CDL program, and I drove by Eastern Shore Community College every day, so I called, asked about the program and that’s when they told me about FastForward.”
A few weeks and $450 later(which typically cost up to $4,500), Ryan came out of FastForward with his CDL-A. He negotiated with his employer for a higher salary and a role that would put his CDL to use, but after a few weeks, when he was put back in his old role, Ryan found a new position with CT Transportation, where he hauls construction materials like drywall, shingles and lumber out of West Point, Virginia.
Being on the road a lot, he doesn’t have the chance to make it back home often, but he makes the best use of his time in the cab by learning new things – and if you can’t tell, Ryan is a numbers guy.
“With all the time on the road, I get the chance to listen to a lot of books. I’m currently mastering personal finance. I’m trying to set goals. Ideally, I want to save up and help bring more business and jobs to the Eastern Shore,” he said. “You can’t stop learning, that’s not a good thing to do.”
If you’re looking for a career change, consider enrolling in FastForward. Contact your local FastForward Career Coach to get started.