Before enrolling in the department’s Job Corps program, Robert Harger’s life was spiraling out of control.
The 22-year-old Allentown, Pennsylvania, native had become homeless after a relationship ended and he could no longer live with his ex-girlfriend’s family. He bounced from job to job, living recklessly with no real plans for the future.
He reached a point where he began to think that if he ended up in jail, he at least would be fed and have shelter. But after a conversation with a friend one day about obtaining a commercial driver’s license, Robert decided to pursue a CDL as a means “to find a way out.”
He first joined a program through PA CareerLink that provided a tent and living supplies. Two representatives from that program encouraged him to enroll in Job Corps, which provides free job training and housing to young people ages 16–24, so he could work towards the CDL and have a place to live. He listened to their guidance and entered the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center in January 2016.
In four months, he completed Job Corps’ heavy truck-driving Class-B program, along with the advance training Class-A program. Instructors praised him for being the fastest to complete both programs and were astounded when he was the first student ever to pass his tests for permits on the first try. He credits his classroom instructors, Mr. Haire and Mr. Brooks, for giving him a fighting chance to succeed despite his self-doubts.
“When I passed it was like I was given a gift, even though I worked very hard for it,” Robert said. “I was proud to share my progress and success with my classmates, family and friends.”
After Job Corps, Robert found seasonal employment as a truck driver with Brewco Marketing Group, one of the leading experiential marketing agencies in the nation. He recently finished up the National Baseball Hall of Fame tour, where he not only drove the marketing truck but also served as a brand ambassador working with and assisting customers with the high-tech exhibits and making sure their experience was exceptional.
He returns to work with Brewco in February 2017 when the marketing season picks back up. In the meantime, he’s driving trash truck loads with a solid waste and recycling company. Robert said Job Corps taught him the importance of having a positive attitude. He recently achieved a personal goal of buying his first car, which marks the first of many more accomplishments to come.
Editor’s note: Job Corps trains more than 60,000 students at 126 centers in all 50 states. Interested in more information? Visit jobcorps.gov or call 800–733–5627.
The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here.
Katelyn English is an intern in the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia.