My Career Package

NEW YORKPatrick Greene was working for one of the nation’s oldest investment banks. Now he’s driving a truck.

Greene was a purchasing manager who arranged travel for Bear Stearns executives. He was laid off in July 2008, a few months after JPMorgan Chase & Co. took over. He tried to find work at similar companies, but with no luck. So, after about 40 resumes came to dead ends, Greene decided to learn to drive an 18-wheeler.

“It’s something I always thought I would like, and just never got to do,” Greene said. Despite trucking’s long hours and being on the road away from his wife and children for weeks at a time, Greene, 49, liked the idea of a career change after years behind a desk.

A growing number of people are trading white collars for blue as the job market and layoffs dictate some tough choices about earning a living. And trucking schools are seeing more of these former white-collar workers.

Trucking schools across the country enrolling older applicants from a variety of white-collar jobs. Decent pay and a relatively short training time is attracting new blood in a stalled economy.

“We have students come to us after spending their whole professional life in an office, one trucking school said. “Then, all of a sudden, they’re getting laid off.”

A heavy truck or tractor-trailer driver earns an average of $47,560 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A student can complete training in just three to six weeks, and there are few restrictions on receiving a commercial driver’s license other than a clean bill of health and a decent driving record. An independent owner operator can earn an average of $80,000 per year.

One trucking school executive says recent applicants at his school are in their 40s and 50s, about 10 to 15 years older than typical students just a few years ago.

In other words, this may be the time where people are trying the careers they’ve always wanted, but never before deemed practical. More Americans are taking chances and jumping into new careers, because they don’t have anything left to lose.

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