ENGLEWOOD — A career expo aimed at helping at-risk youth by providing them with career options attracted people of all ages, including 57-year old Feliciano Pelayo.
"I was a truck driver for five-years before I was laid off," he said. "I heard about the expo through some friends who come here to get their hair cut and thought I come to see if there was anything here for me."
Pelayo, who is married with five adult children, has lived in Englewood for seven years and has been out of work since October 2011.
"This would be perfect for me if I could get back behind the wheel again," Pelayo said. "I miss being on the road and making money to take care of my family."
A career in trucking seemed to dominate the interest of about 20 people who attended the expo Monday from noon to 5 p.m.
"I love to drive. I would give my right arm to be a truck driver," said Kenny Bruster, 45, who lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood on the South Side. "There are not a lot of industries open for people with limited skills and no college education, but the trucking industry is wide open."
Julius McKinney was among the employers at the expo. He founded Full Time Logistics LLC in 2010, a Chicago trucking driving school.
"It does not take much beyond having a 'clean' driving record to become a truck driver. It is 'background' friendly for people with felonies (as long as it was not for a violent felony such as murder)," explained McKinney. "A high school diploma or GED is not required either, which is why so many people are interested in becoming a truck driver."
McKinney added that unlike most truck driving schools that charge on average $3,900 for a four-week training class, his company only charges $2,500.
"Cost is definitely a factor when it comes to going to a trade school so I try to keep costs at a minimum," said McKinney, who does not possess a Commercial Drivers License, which is required by the state to become a truck driver.
Sunni Powell, owner of Powell's Barbershop, 1139 W. 63rd St., said he got the idea for a career expo after watching young black men from his shop's window standing on the corner all day and committing crimes.
"I see them stealing cell phones and then selling them to dishonest retailers who are not from the community," Powell said. "I am a product of Englewood. I live in Englewood and I work in Englewood and I am fully invested in my community."
L.B. Cross, is a 48-year old truck driver, who lives in the Woodlawn community on the South Side and heard about the expo from McKinney.
"He [McKinney] asked me if I would come to talk to people about the [trucking] business and I said sure. Before I became a driver someone talked to me about the business so I wanted to do the same," Cross said. "I would advise anyone interested in becoming a driver to do long distance driving. It pays much more."
According to Cross and McKinney, truck drivers are paid based on miles traveled to deliver a load.
"On average I would say a long distance driver is paid 35 cents per mile and travels about 3,500 miles a week," added Cross, a husband and father seven kids with one on the way. "The longest I have been away from my family is three weeks, so it can be lonely at times until you get use to it."
McKinney said as a result of being away from your family weeks at a time there is a shortage of long distrance drivers. Most new truck drivers are seeking to be local drivers, which allows them to travel short distances and be home the next day.
But being away for long periods of time is not a problem for Dan Hayes, 48.
"It won't bother me. As long as the money is good, I'm good," said Hayes, who lives in Chatham and unemployed. "I need a job I can feel good about doing and one that pays well too."
Culinary was another profession represented at the expo by Kristin Waltz, a case manager with Inspiration Corporation
, a Chicago nonprofit.
"We offer a free, 13-week culinary program for people interested in becoming entry-level cooks," said Waltz. "After completing the program we help students find employment as prep cooks."
Additional services offered by Inspirational Corporation is a 30-day job readiness program and grant assistance, which is done on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed.
"I do not want people thinking that if they complete our job readiness program that they would automatically receive a [$4,800] grant because that is not true," cautioned Waltz. "The federal grant is income-based so everyone will not qualify for the grant."
With or without grant assistance, Antwain Foster, 26, who attended the former Englewood High School, plans to pursue a career as an electrician or fixing heating and cooling systems.
"I am good with my hands and I enjoy working with wires," said Foster, who splits his time living in Englewood and in Madison, Wisc. with his girlfriend and son. "If I can find work here then this is where I will live but if not I will look in Wisconsin where my son stays. These days you have to go where the job takes you."