Piedmont trucking company leader pulling for convicted felons to join skilled labor force

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Since 1990, Karl Robinson has watched an idea for a trucking company grow into a successful endeavor that does business with the likes of HondaJet, Thomas Buses and other giant companies.

Now Robinson has another idea that could help transform the economy here in the Piedmont and across North Carolina. He wants to put convicted felons to work in industries like his that current laws prevent them from getting into.

“We have companies right here in the Piedmont that can grow and continue to grow and are growing [regardless of the limitations now],” said Robinson.

Last week Robinson was part of a group that met with elected leaders in Washington, D.C., and President Barak Obama's economic advisors about North Carolina's workforce needs.

Robinson wants support from elected leaders like Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Alma Adams, and Sen. Richard Burr for a plan that would help pair business needs with a workforce desperate for a chance to make a decent wage.

“We're trying to fill the pipeline because we're 250,000 drivers short in America and over the next 10 years you're looking at over 1.25 million workers short,” said Robinson. “You've got trucking companies they have 30, 40, 50 vehicles just sitting because they can't get people to drive.”

Robinson said the problem will only get worse if people are not trained to do the job and the potential candidate list remains limited. Those shut out right now include non-violent offenders or people convicted on minor drug charges.

“The insurance laws are what prohibit companies like ours from hiring them and when your insurance says no -- no means no,” said Robinson. “When they come out of prison they have a hard time finding a job other than for cleaning services and things like that and you can't provide for yourself or your family if you don't make a good living wage.”

Robinson said he’s not just concerned with his trucking company or the shipping industry but the Piedmont as a whole.

“This is not a selfish thing this is something that will help everyone in the community and it will bring a different light on North Carolina as far as being inclusive,” said Robinson.