The great American road trip—traveling from coast to coast and seeing all the United States has to offer in between. Americans rarely dream this seemingly farfetched dream in 2018, but, because of help from an expert career advisor at Gateway Community Action, Morgan Countian Nathaniel Patrick is living it.
“Out here it’s just an adventure. I’m making money to go on an adventure,” Patrick says as he rolls his 18-wheeler truck through a weigh station.
Patrick is a driver for B&J Supply out of Olive Hill, Ky., something he says he’d always had an interest in but the stars never seemed aligned to allow him to pursue.
“When I was younger and computer games were all the craze for all these fancy gaming systems, I had every trucking simulator I could get my hands on,” he says. “I’d been trying for a while to get into the CDL program because traveling was something I enjoyed doing, but I was always too late or there wasn’t any funding or something like that.”
In the meantime, he explains, Patrick started his own business as a housing contractor in 2009, and was able to expand that business for the next five years. Unfortunately, a lack of quality hires forced his business to shut down in 2014.
“So, I went on and tried to find some things I could do by myself. I took care of some apartments there for a while,” he says. “I was getting by.”
Things changed in 2015, he says, when Patrick met his future wife and by the end of the year had his first son.
“I was still maintaining the apartment—it wasn’t the greatest. I mean, we were tickled to death when we got to go out to McDonald’s and got to eat something other than the value menu,” he says with a laugh.
Patrick’s life picked up speed again by 2016 with his wife enrolling in college and the birth of his second son.
“I said, I have got to do something more,” he says. “I wanted my wife to achieve, I didn’t want her to be in the same boat that I was in. I said, I will find a way to do it.”
It was near the end of 2017 when Patrick decided to make the trip to the Gateway Community Action Agency office to speak to an expert career advisor about any job or retraining opportunities in his area.
Gateway provides Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Morgan and Menifee counties under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP). EKCEP administers WIOA programs, like the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program for dislocated coal miners like Perry, in 23 mountain counties and also manages the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, which provide access to more than a dozen programs and services for job seekers and employers under one roof.
“I went through Gateway before when I was younger and just out of high school. (They) had helped me get a temporary job and helped me get through a hard time,” he explains. “I was like, well let’s go back and see what kind of further education they offer.”
Expert Career Advisor Cindy Montgomery met with Patrick just after Christmas in 2017 and told him that a CDL class was starting up in January at the local community college.
“I had pretty much given up on getting any kind of further education. I couldn’t go to college because it’s hard to work the kind of work I needed to do and go to college,” Patrick explains. “The CDL program was a month, and I figured my wife’s taking four years out of her life for college, I can take a month out and try to do better.”
Patrick finished all his paperwork and tests in order to get into the class within a matter of days after speaking to Montgomery.
“Once I passed my tests I went to the actual school—that’s four weeks, 10-hour days of learning how to get my CDL,” he says. “I breezed through the course, honestly. It was just something that I really wanted to do.”
By February 17, 2018, Patrick had received his CDL Class A license, and two days later he was in a truck for FedEx traveling across the country.
“Finding a job driving a truck is probably the easiest thing you’ll ever do,” Patrick says. “You can leave a job on a Friday and start a new one on a Monday.”
Patrick paid his dues as a new driver, working two and a half months as a team driver for FedEx and traveling 6,000 miles a week. In May, he took his current job with B&J Supply.
“I don’t feel like I’m going to work. I feel like I work more when I go home than when I do out here,” he says, chuckling. “This is the first real career I can say that I’ve had. I’m excited at every turn. I’m not breaking my back anymore, I’m not going into moldy houses, I’m not working 14- and 16-hour days, I’m not trying to teach people how to do stuff. I’m just out here, I’m traveling, I’m taking care of my family and I’m thoroughly enjoying what I do.”
“I’m excited every Monday when I leave out,” he adds.
Since starting his new career, Patrick and his family have been able to move into a new home and purchase new, more dependable vehicles.
“Now, I can do everything everyone wants to do, honestly. This job has helped me and my family be provided with everything that we need to really have the dream,” he says.
Had he not visited Gateway and enrolled in the CDL program, Patrick says he’s sure he would have fallen into a desperate cycle.
“I would have probably tried doing the contractor thing again, and it would have been real hit and miss,” he says with a sigh. “If I hadn’t come across this, I mean, I’d have gotten sucked into that drain of people that just give up, that get on government assistance and just give up.”
Patrick says he hopes anyone that is struggling to find a job or career would take the trip up to Gateway Community Action, or to their local community action office.”
“I think that anyone who doesn’t look into what Gateway offers is shortcutting their life,” he says. ”With everything that Gateway offers, they’re taking care of the deficit that coal and farming have left behind. Gateway gave me my chance.”
EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services, administers the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program for dislocated coal miners and their spouses, and is the White House-designated lead organization for the federal TechHire designation for Eastern Kentucky. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.