New Reflections helping trucking industry fill jobs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Industries such as theaters, hotels and restaurants were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in layoffs.

However, the trucking industry is in high demand.

“The truck industry is booming,” New Reflections Founder, Mark Byrd said. “You always need it. Everything you need, to eat, what you drive, it’s all delivered by a truck.”

It’s one of the main reasons Byrd started New Reflections Technical Institute, a place where students can earn their Commercial Driver’s License.

So far, more than 250 students are going through the program this year alone.

“It’s a little larger than what we would normally see,” Byrd said. “Once we were able to reopen, things have been going up. It’s a high need for drivers.”

For Latica Sizemore, she decided to trade in her scrubs for a semi.

“One, it was for financial gain,” Sizemore said. “Also, I wanted to challenge myself knowing this was a male-dominated industry.”

After transitioning from health care, and working to get her CDL, she hopes to possibly open her own trucking company and encourage other women to get their CDL.

For seven years, the trucking program helped more than 800 people get their CDL.

For many, the classes give them a second chance.

“I would say 50 percent of them were incarcerated,” Byrd said.

Julian Rodriguez spent six years in prison, and now, he’s working on getting his CDL and moving forward with his life.

“I got in trouble,” Rodriguez explained. “I served time in federal prison and now I came home reformed, and working towards something that can’t be taken from me.”

“It’s hard to be employed being a felon, period,” Byrd said. “So when you give a person to have a sustainable life and to be able to make a living, it really makes a difference in their lives.”

The four to six-week course isn’t only for CDL training, but also focuses on economic thinking skills and encouraging creative and intelligent risk-taking.

“It really is like a family,” Sizemore said.

For Rodriguez, he’s getting ready for his first trucking interview with the hopes of landing the job.

“I feel blessed to be able to have something going for myself when times are really hard,” Rodriguez said.

Byrd said the program’s recidivism rate is just one percent, where most of the graduates do not return to jail.

“If you give someone a job and offer training to be able to make a sustainable living, it changes their outlook,” Byrd said.

To learn more about New Reflections, visit its website.

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