Walton County inmates are bulldozing their way to job opportunities

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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WTVY) - Walton County Jail has started a new course that teaches inmates how to operate heavy machinery.

Until a few days ago, Walton County inmate Joshua Burgess had never driven a front end loader.

Now, he's maneuvering it like a pro.

"Nobody would've thought coming to jail and getting a certification to better your life, but the guards and everybody at the jail, they do everything they can to help you when you get out,” said Burgess.

For him and five other inmates, they're just getting the hang of the controls.

They will start each week rotating to a different machine - ultimately getting a feel for all of them.

Operators are in high demand so once these guys are out, they're hoping to get in this business.

"We've spoke to several contractors in Walton County, and they're excited,” said Detention Deputy Frank Araneo. “They said they need some help running equipment, so they're very interested in supporting these guys once they have completed the course and have finished their sentence."

The heavy machinery course is the newest of many at Walton County Jail.

The jail also offers welding, farming and even parenting.

"Some of them had a rough start, some of them made some bad choices,” said Araneo. “It's a little more to it than sending someone to jail as a deterrent not to come back."

At the end of the course, each inmate will receive a certificate from the county so they can operate any of these machines at a company in Walton County.

"The day I get out is the day that I'll have an application to apply for a job," said Burgess.

Deputy Araneo had to turn away some inmates for this inaugural class, so he's hoping to enroll them after he graduates this group.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office has leased these machines for five years, so it looks like several dozen inmates will have the chance to get trained.

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