Free training: Filling the skills gap

Some Clark County area companies offer free, paid training for new employees

C-Tran bus
C-Tran is one company in the Clark County area that offers free and paid training to employment candidates. Courtesy of C-Tran

According to a 2019 Adecco State of the Economy Survey from worldwide employment agency Adecco Staffing, out of 500 U.S. senior executives surveyed, “92% of executives think that American workers aren’t as skilled as they need to be.” In the same survey, 59% thought the U.S. education system was to blame for the gaps in U.S. workforce skills, and 89% thought that corporate apprenticeship or training programs could help alleviate that skills gap.

A number of companies in Clark County have recognized this skills gap and offer free and/or paid training to employment candidates.

C-Tran is one such company. For example, the trainees for their bus operator positions receive eight weeks of free — and paid — training. Candidates must have great customer service skills, a solid employment history and a clean driving record, and must pass C-Tran’s pre-hire process. The training is full time or 40 hours per week, and trainees are paid $17 per hour for the first four weeks; at the fifth week of training, they’re paid $18.50 per hour.

Commercial vehicles and training are divided into three size classes: A, B and C.

“C-Tran does not train or test for Class A because the vehicles in our fleet require only Class B or C. They (employees) would end training with either a Class B or Class C license,” said Christine Selk, communication and public affairs manager for C-Tran.

With a Class B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you can drive “any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more” and “vehicles towing a trailer with a weight rating of 10,000 GVWR pounds or less.” With a Class C CDL, you can drive “vehicles carrying 16 or more persons including the driver” or “vehicles carrying hazardous materials that need a placard.”

For C-Tran, according to Selk, if you have a Class B, you can drive fixed route buses or CVANs with a passenger endorsement. The fixed route needs an airbrake endorsement. If you have a Class C with a passenger endorsement, you can drive a CVAN.

“Training is eight weeks long and will include all hours of operations, from early morning to late evening, with schedules consistent to meet the job requirements,” Selk said. “Trainees receive combined training theory (knowledge) and behind-the-wheel range and public road training, consisting of safety and security; customer service; agency-specific policies and procedures; regulatory compliance; technical operator skills (behind the wheel and on the bus); and service route (on-the-job training).”

“Trainees are tested throughout their training,” Selk continued, “which may include a commercial license test for the appropriate state of residency (Washington or Oregon) and conclude the training with a cumulative final written test as well as a final in-service, behind-the-wheel test.”

Eighty-nine percent of candidates pass the training and go on to work as bus operators for C-Tran.

Another Clark County company that offers free training is ilani, a premier gaming, dining (15 different restaurants), entertainment and meeting destination, located on a 156-acre site in Ridgefield. Ilani has 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,500 slot machines and 75 gaming tables: blackjack, roulette, midi baccarat, craps, ultimate Texas hold’em and pai gow poker.

Their Dealer Training School is open to Dealer School applicants, as well as to current Table Games Dealers to enhance their skills, and to other current team members interested in becoming Table Game Dealers. Candidates must successfully complete the interview and selection process; those possessing a winning attitude, and a positive, energetic personality and excellent guest service skills are more likely to be selected, according to Kara Fox-LaRose, CEO of ilani.

The Dealer School is open year-round and training for new dealers starts every quarter; the length of training depends on the student’s ability to learn the game. The training lasts about eight to 10 weeks and is five days a week, and about 3.5 hours per day. Dealer students must successfully complete a Table Games Dealer audition. The school has a 95% success rate.

Although the Dealer Training School is free, attendees are not paid during their training.

“The instructors I had were very knowledgeable, and I had no experience when I started,” said Erika Laws, a Clark County resident who participated in ilani’s Dealer Training School. “It was a very fun job. Bruce and Peter were my trainers – they were helpful and thorough.”

National companies with a local presence

Some national companies that offer awesome training and development programs in this area are Amazon, Marriott International Inc. and AT&T.

Amazon offers “an intensive, month-long training and leadership program prior to hire” and “prepays 95% of tuition for employees at fulfillment centers to take courses in in-demand fields,” according to Employees can also train from home through their Virtual Contact Center.

Marriott offers “a variety of training to employees worldwide using multiple training delivery methods, including virtual and in-person,” focusing on developing skills, and professional and career development.

AT&T facilitated the creation of the first Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) degree as well as several “self-paced, fast-track technical credentials called Nanodegrees across web and mobile development, data analytics and tech entrepreneurship.”

“We can’t depend on just hiring and the traditional educational system as sources for retooling or finding new talent. We need employees who are ready to work in a competitive and more digital world,” says Marty Richter, AT&T’s corporate communications manager, according to

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