Lisa Carroll has been smashing stereotypes since her graduation from Central High School last year.
In December, she earned her CDL license, and this spring she earned her heavy equipment operator (HEO) credential. This fall, she plans to enroll in the mechatronics program. Carroll has been able to gain all of her training through Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions. And, thanks to FastForward grant funding – which covers two-thirds of the tuition in high-demand fields – and several scholarships, she hasn’t incurred any out-of-pocket expenses.
Prior to the pandemic, Carroll had planned to go to a technical institute to train to become a diesel mechanic. She has been working at Skip’s Auto and Towing in Edinburg for the past 1½ years.
Carroll has been working on cars since she was little, and took an auto technology class at Triplett Tech before her Central graduation. She earned her commercial driver’s license through Laurel Ridge’s CDL program in December 2021.
“Everyone had been saying it’s good to have so I can drive a heavy wrecker at work,” Carroll said of getting the CDL. “Me and my dad used to work on heavy equipment, and I’ve grown up around it. We have our own shop at our house where we fix our equipment.
“I like having my hands on stuff. I’m better with hands-on learning than with books.”
At Triplett Tech, there was one other girl in her class, while at work, she is the only female not working in the office. Carroll said she enjoyed her CDL classes.
“It was nice learning everything,” she said. “I was the youngest student, and I was the only girl in my class. The teachers were great, very helpful.”
After successfully earning her CDL, Carroll, whose mother earned associate degrees from Laurel Ridge in the 1980s and 1990s, enrolled in Workforce Solutions’ HEO program.
“I’ve always been into equipment,” she said. “I’ve run skid steers and a mini-excavator before. I can run about anything you give me.”
Carroll – who sings and plays drums in her church’s youth band, races go-karts, is a baseball umpire and plays with her puppies in her spare time – isn’t sure where she will end up career-wise, but is ambitious.
“I’m just seeing where all my opportunities can come from and what makes me the best money for my future,” she said.
Students who successfully complete the HEO program, are guaranteed job interviews with area firms.
HEO instructor Brian Callis described Carroll as a very good student.
“It’s pretty impressive she’s got her CDL license at her age,” he said.
“She has been a role model student,” added classmate Giovanni Elaidi, of Dale City. “I look up to her.”
He said Carroll encourages her classmates to take more classes.
Carroll plans to keep adding to her certifications as long as she is able to keep getting scholarship and grant funding.
“I’m hoping to do the mechatronics courses this fall,” Carroll said. “That would allow me to work in factories and give me experience with repairing equipment.”
Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions comes highly recommended from Carroll.
“If you want to learn more about a trade and to make money, they will definitely help with that,” she said.
According to Emsi Data, the median salary for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers is $23 an hour, with job growth predicted at 13 percent.