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Floyd County resident Michael Tackett broke out of a cycle of low-paying jobs by earning his Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and beginning a new career as a truck driver for Universal Well Service at Allen.

Universal Well Service driver Michael Tackett (center) is flanked by Operations Manager Bud Saunders (left), and General Manager Rick Slone beside one of the trucks Tackett is now qualified to drive thanks to the Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Training Assistance Program developed by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP).

EKCEP CDL Training Program Helps Floyd Company Expand Eastern Kentucky Operations

Michael Tackett was stuck in a cycle of dead-end construction jobs. At the same time, Universal Well Service in Floyd County was unable to find enough trained drivers to expand its drilling operations to meet today's increased demand for natural gas.

An innovative program developed by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (EKCEP) brought both sides of that workforce equation together-and now both look at their problems in the past tense.

Tackett now drives an "acid truck" that pumps a corrosive solution into rocks to assist in the well-drilling process. He said his job at Universal Well pays him "a good wage," and has opened up benefits and opportunities for advancement he could not have imagined during his previous construction jobs. And Universal Well has been able to begin expanding its operations in eastern Kentucky quickly and efficiently.

"Before I got into this, I had settled for medium-paying jobs, and had already made my mind up that was what I was going to do the rest of my life," Tackett said. "I couldn't advance myself until I came to Universal, and now, I'm making good money, I've got a great job, and I love what I do."

Responding to Universal Well's request for help finding drivers who could earn the required endorsements, EKCEP modified an existing CDL training program to suit the company's needs and developed the Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Training Assistance Program, according to Crawford Blakeman, manager of EKCEP's Business Solutions team. The new program gave Tackett and 11 other people the opportunity to begin working with Universal Well even before they completed their specialized truck-driving training.

EKCEP's program began with one month of CDL training at the Hager Hill campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC). During that month, Universal Well paid Tackett and the others a training wage. Upon completing their CDL training, the drivers were enrolled in the WIA On-the-Job Training (OJT) program, which can cover up to one-half of the drivers' salaries as they completed Universal Well's own training program.

Upon successfully completing the training, the new drivers became full-time employees of the company.

Though the number may not seem large, the 12 drivers secured through EKCEP's CDL Training Assistance Program have already allowed the company to begin realizing its goal to expand its operations in eastern Kentucky, according to Rick Slone, general manager of Universal Well's Floyd County operations.

"CDL drivers with all of the endorsements that we require are hard to find in this area, but this program has basically brought us an unlimited number of drivers," Slone said. "Before this, we'd run ads on the radio, in the newspapers and on TV, and we just couldn't find anyone who was already a CDL driver.

"But now we've been able to expand, and we're going to expand more, and this program is actually letting us do that," Slone continued. "If it hadn't been for the program, we wouldn't have even been talking about expanding."

Similarly, Tackett said he could not have achieved his personal goals without the EKCEP program.

"I don't know how I would have gotten my CDL without the program," he said. "There aren't any resources out there to help a person do that besides the program. Also, I knew that I'd have something to start into once I got my CDL. It's the best all the way around."

Helping connect employers like Universal Well with employees like Tackett is the mission of EKCEP's Business Solutions team, Blakeman said.

EKCEP is a federally funded non-profit agency that administers the JobSight network of workforce centers in 23 eastern Kentucky counties. At JobSight "one-stop" workforce centers, job seekers and employers can access over a dozen state and federal employment and training programs and employer services in a single location. EKCEP's Business Solutions services help link employers with the right employees through numerous services, activities, and initiatives.

In addition to helping Universal Well find employees, EKCEP has also helped solve many of the employers' retention issues by using EKCEP's JobFit on-line job-matching service as a part of the program, Blakeman said.

JobFit gauges potential trainees' abilities, personalities, preferences, and other indicators of suitability for a specific job. Potential trainees used the internet-based JobFit system to create detailed profiles, which were then compared to the precise requirements for a successful Universal Well driver. Only applicants scoring above a 70-percent match with the desired profile were granted an interview with the company.

"By using JobFit, the employer knows going in whether those prospective drivers are likely to work out for them in the long run," Blakeman said.

Slone said Universal Well has retained nine of the 12 drivers obtained since the company first began working with EKCEP's Business Solutions services late in 2005. Blakeman added that the drivers who have left the company are still working as truck drivers for other employers.

"Everyone is still doing what they were trained to do," Blakeman said. "By working in this partnership, EKCEP's training costs have gone down, people are still getting good training, and employers are getting trained drivers.

"Workforce development's partnerships are being strengthened in every area through this program, and everyone is winning."


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