Kelvin Vazquez was a young man with a plan for his future. Even as a 20-year-old tow truck driver, he knew he wanted to get his Commercial Driver’s License. The credential would make him a more in-demand driver, allowing him to pursue better opportunities operating dump trucks, street sweepers, snow plows, sanders.

But Vazquez couldn’t afford the training. He shelved his dream and for the next seven years, continued driving tow trucks. Then he learned about City Academy, a free job training program for low- and middle-income Boston residents.

Kelvin Vazquez speaks at the City Academy CDL graduation February 6, 2020 at Suffolk Construction.

“It was like a dream come true,” he said to the friends, family, city leaders, and program partners at Thursday night’s graduation.

Vazquez was part of City Academy’s second graduating class of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) trainees. All nine passed the CDL exam on their first try.

“We worked together. We worked as a team. We got it done,” Vazquez said.

The same could be said of the partnerships that made City Academy’s training possible in the first place. The Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD) managed the program, the Neighborhood Jobs Trust funded it, Teamsters Local 25 administered the CDL training, X-Cel Education gave job readiness training, Massport donated a training site, and the City’s Public Works and Parks Departments, along with Suffolk Construction and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, served as employer partners.

Working together, these organizations were able to provide trainees with a potentially life-changing asset.

“The CDL is like a key,” said Sean Ogden, a CDL trainer for Boston’s Department of Public Works. “It’s almost like a college degree in the trades.”

Like a degree, the CDL makes new careers and salary grades possible. Among City Academy’s first class of CDL graduates (who completed the program last year) 90% have been placed in training-related jobs at an average of $26 per hour.

And that’s just the starting wage.

“The road doesn’t stop here,” Vazquez said.

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