Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Civil Rights

Committed to equality in transportation service

Spotlight on Success: OJT Trainee of the Month

Celebrating the accomplishments of those breaking new ground in highway construction

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program is a much-needed on-ramp for people of color, women, and disadvantaged persons looking to start – and build – careers in highway construction.

Contractors participating in the OJT program are currently employing 160 approved trainees on highway, county, and city construction projects across the state.

All of these OJT trainees have unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to share and celebrate. In recognition, MnDOT Office of Civil Rights will be sharing their stories through our monthly “Spotlight on Success: OJT Trainee of the Month” feature. We invite and encourage you to check in regularly for updates.

February 2019: Clifford Lea

Second chances can sometimes be hard to come by for those who were once incarcerated. Fortunately, there are initiatives in place granting people in these challenging scenarios the support they need to build a new career -- and a new life.

Clifford LeaFor example, the Reconstruction Training and Placement (RTP) program, which is co-sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), prepares qualified candidates for employment on highway construction projects.

To understand the true value of the RTP program, consider the experience of Clifford Lea, February’s OJT Trainee of the Month. Indeed, the RTP program allowed Clifford to shift his focus from having paid a debt to society to paying it forward. 

Working with RTP program officials following his release, Clifford was able to secure a position as a laborer with C.S. McCrossan, working on two projects in the Twin Cities during the summer of 2018. Clifford’s pursuit of his new craft did encounter at least one obstacle straight away: a lack of reliable transportation, a must-have in the highway construction industry.

Through hard work and support from his family, however, Clifford was able to secure a vehicle. In fact, the income from his new position eventually allowed him to buy a more reliable vehicle and, as mentioned above, pay it forward.

“The car I got to drive during the training…well, that car was giving me problems getting to work," he said. "So, I purchased a newer used car and now, I handed [the older car] over to my nieces so they can learn how to drive and get their driver’s license … I am paying it forward!”

Clifford is currently enrolled in the OJT program, working with a mentor to expand his skillset. Perhaps more importantly, he’s continuing to pave the way for those looking for a second chance.