Bunni, 34, was working as a manager of a Minneapolis coffee shop when she decided she needed to find a better-paying job. Recently divorced and with a teenage daughter to support, she watched an online video in which a woman talked about a state grant that enabled her to train as a long-distance truck driver.
Inspired, Bunni asked around about training grants and was connected with CareerForce in Woodbury. There, she met with employment counselor Angela Plumbo who did an assessment and helped Bunni apply for a grant to cover the cost of her commercial driver’s license training. Less than three weeks later, Bunni started a five-week, full-time training program. Even before she finished last June, she had a job offer waiting for her.
Fast forward to today. She’s been on the job a year, and she loves it. “Oh, my goodness, I could not be happier,” she says. “I’ve cut my stress level to an eighth of what it was and more than doubled my income. I have nothing to complain about.”
In fact, she was recently the subject of a feature article in The Lily, a Washington Post publication, which followed a week of her life as a truck driver during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked about working with CareerForce, Bunni says, “It went really smoothly. I was impressed. I’m super grateful for the grant. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without it.”
Bunni’s training was funded through the Women’s Economic Security Act Competitive Grant program (WESA), a federal program overseen by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). These grants are intended to increase the number of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional occupations and in STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
CareerForce staff and partners can provide personal case management, including assessment, career counseling, and job search assistance. They can help determine eligibility for training grants and other workforce financial assistance.
Bunni has no regrets about her career change. These days, she mostly hauls snowmobiles, motorcycles and ATVs, but has sometimes transported food and other essentials. “I’ve been to 47 states in the truck,” she says. “All except Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii.”
While challenging at times, Bunni still manages to find healthy food – she’s a vegan – and to exercise every day. She’s training to run a 100-mile race. Her beagle Zoey keeps her company in her truck.
Sometimes her daughter Lawlli rides along as well. Lawlli, 17, was staying with her grandparents in Arkansas after her school closed in March but is living with roommates in the Twin Cities now. Bunni sees her frequently.
In her spare time, Bunni uses the sewing machine she keeps in her truck to make face masks and quilts.
Bunni says she’s been able to save a lot of money in her new line of work and expects to be able to retire in less than 10 years.
“It can be tough at times, but women are tough,” she says. “You’ve got to just keep on going and do it.”
If you’re looking for work, you can find help online or on the phone through CareerForce. Visit our locations page for the phone number and email address of a location near you – and go to our virtual services page for more about online workshops, career fairs, and other online resources.
If you'd like to learn more about Bunni's new career, check out this blog post about truck drivers, a job that is among the top 10 in demand during COVID-19.