June 2, 2023
By Lane Kimble
Transportation contractors often tell Lorie Thompson the same thing: They can teach a person the skills to do the job, but they can’t teach them to show up and be passionate about the work.
That’s where Thompson comes in.
Thursday, her latest class of Highway Construction Skills Training graduates showed up at the Dane County Job Center for a round of “speed networking” with two dozen companies looking to hire.
“Someone identified it as similar to speed dating… It’s a pretty good (comparison),” Thompson told WTBA. “You find the right match here, it’s a relationship set in gold, and hopefully you start ‘dating’ next week.”
HCST (the new name for WisDOT’s TrANS program) teaches students life and job skills, offers on-site visit opportunities to see what construction work actually looks like, and helps connect potential employees with contractors over the course of six weeks.
Thompson has run the program for eight years.
More than 800 graduates have been placed with employers over the years.
“Someone who’s coming into this program with no skills, no abilities… they overcome the struggle of thinking that they aren’t going to be good enough or that they won’t be successful,” Thompson said. “These contractors will help them to learn these skills… they just have to want it.”
Thursday’s session featured nearly a dozen WTBA member companies, including D.L. Gasser Construction, Truck Country-McCoy Group, and Integrity Grading and Excavating.
“We could have somebody (who we meet here today be) boots-on-the-ground within a matter of a week,” Integrity CFO Kyle Beld told WTBA. “Just a hard worker, shows up on time, is a team player… Work hard and you’ll have plenty of opportunity in the industry.”
Thompson teaches four HCST classes each year. She starts screening Friday for her Rock County class that begins June 12. Those interested can apply at the Beloit Public Library or the Rock County Job Center.
The next Dane County class begins in November.