Program Trains Young Garbage Collectors Amid US Shortage

By KRISTIN J. BENDER

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Like most little boys, Corey Lever liked trucks and his favorite was always the garbage truck.

He loved to watch it roar down his Oakland street, grabbing the cans and dumping the trash into its rear compartment.

After graduating from high school, he bounced between jobs, working for various large companies and attending community college, but nothing was a good fit for the energetic, outdoors-loving guy. He tried to become a garbage collector on his own but didn't get hired.

Then he heard about a new partnership between Waste Management of Alameda County Inc., Oakland Civicorps and unions that gives young adults — often high school dropouts from low-income communities — a chance to become teamster drivers after two years of training.

"It's the only city garbage franchise agreement in the country to include a nonprofit job training program," said Civicorps Executive Director Alan Lessik.

The job-training program comes at a good time for an industry struggling to find drivers.

The American Trucking Association says a shortage of qualified applicants with a commercial driver's license has more than doubled since 2011. Its latest annual report says the nation was short roughly 48,000 drivers last year, with projections of a higher shortage in years to come.

The shortfall has become more apparent as the economy picks up, said Barry Skolnick, Waste Management's area vice president for Northern California and Nevada.

"If commercial construction picks up, there are more houses, and (when) routes get bigger, we need to hire more drivers," he said. "It's really being driven by the economy. It's a great job with great benefits."

Apprentices work full time collecting organics from commercial businesses in Oakland.

Last year, Civicorps created six apprenticeships in partnership with Waste Management that can lead to lucrative jobs with the teamsters and unions as well as non-union administrative jobs.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform