Diesel Technology Offers Many Job Opportunities

 

The increased use of diesel engines in light to heavy trucks, automobiles and farm equipment is constantly increasing the need for qualified repair and maintenance specialists. Job openings for bus /truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists are expected to grow 13 percent a year according to the Kentucky Occupational Employment Outlook to 2020.

Students in the Diesel Technology Program at Ashland Community and Technical College are learning to become the specialists who can fill those jobs.

Logan W. Fannin is working on her first career. A 2013 high school graduate from Roanoke, VA, she moved in with her grandmother in Huntington in order to come to ACTC. "I've always loved getting my hands dirty and learning how things work. My mother was a diesel mechanic and a welder, so I was open to the idea of that kind of job."

"The people here have been a huge plus," Fannin said. "I thought I might be treated differently as a girl, but that's not the case at all. The hands-on learning here helps a lot, and having a good instructor who's willing to work with you at any pace has made all the difference. I've always struggled with books, but here Im not embarrassed to ask for help."

Dana A. Lewis from Ironton is working on a second career. He took diesel courses in high school but then worked as a chemical operator for 21 years until his job shut down. He went back to diesel because its a good field that has job openings, and there are good paying opportunities in the area.

"It's a little challenging to go back to school after all this time but when you put your mind to it, anything is possible," Lewis said. He wants to become a medium/heavy duty truck mechanic for a stable new career. "It's an excellent program here, and every certificate you can get is another step up to a more secure future."

The Diesel Technology program is multifaceted, reflecting the different types of diesel vehicles and the many skills needed to keep those vehicles running. Diesel mechanics handle everything from vehicle brakes or steering to major engine repairs, and diesel maintenance is becoming more complex as more electronic components are used.

"We teach all of the operating systems of trucks and heavy equipment," said Shannon R. McCarty, Associate Professor and Diesel Technology Program Coordinator. "Students learn to handle the most common service and repair skills they will face on the job."

Three diplomas are available: Construction Equipment Technician, Agriculture Equipment Technician, and Medium and Heavy Truck Technician. Students may apply their diploma credits to an Associate in Applied Science Degree in General Occupational / Technical Studies.

Twelve certificates are also offered to provide specific repair and maintenance skills on different types of vehicles and systems.

Classes are taught by McCarty and Professor Richard Burnett, and both are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Certified Master Medium/Heavy Duty Truck technicians. Burnett is also Chair of the Manufacturing, Transportation amp; Industrial Technology Division.

"I enjoy diesel equipment maintenance and repair, and I like the opportunity to share the skills Ive acquired with others," McCarty said. He had nearly 18 years of experience in diesel and gasoline vehicle maintenance and repair before starting at ACTC in 2007. He has been nominated by his students for an ACTC Teaching Excellence Award, for several years.

Diesel Technology Jobs

"We have been very fortunate in finding employment for graduates, and employers often call me when looking for potential employees," McCarty said.

Area employers include Whayne Supply, Power Products, Flagship, CSX, Bridgeport Equipment, Heritage Equipment, Stein Inc., Greenup County Bus Garage, Marathon Transportation. Stafford Drilling and Worldwide Equipment.

The variety of employers demonstrates the many uses of skills learned in the program, from trucking companies, equipment repair shops, construction, rental, and locomotive repair shops to bus companies, mining companies, state highway departments and industrial plants.

The variety of employers demonstrates the many uses of skills learned in the program, from trucking companies, equipment repair shops, construction, rental, and locomotive repair shops to bus companies, mining companies, state highway departments and industrial plants.

"I had always had an interest in being a mechanic and had heard good things about ACTC," said Stephen Moore, a 2013 ACTC graduate who is a mechanic and shift supervisor at Liquid Transport. "I was never one for school, but I enjoyed the hands-on learning at ACTC. Professor McCarty helped me tremendously."

A 2009 Boyd County High School graduate and Ashland resident, Moore came to ACTC to take a big step ahead on getting ready for a job. "I completed the associate degree for versatility in the kinds of jobs I might qualify for, and it was the right program for me."

A diesel mechanic may specialize in engine rebuilding, transmission repair, or tune-ups. Experienced mechanics with leadership qualities soon find their way into supervisory positions. Graduates may qualify for other related jobs in the manufacturing and sales of diesel equipment, and some will eventually go into business for themselves, operating diesel service or repair shops

"I've found that ACTC diesel graduates are ready to go into our apprenticeships," said Tony Barnett, Service Manager at Whayne Supply's Ashland Branch. "We had at least 10 employees from ACTC over the years, and I havent had one who couldn't do the job."

"ACTC is a good resource for businesses," Barnett said. "I want people who are ready to learn our jobs. I know the diesel instructors are really making sure the students have learned all the needed skills and that they have a positive attitude about work."

"ACTC gives the students a good foundation for starting in the field," Barnett added. "I think people need college for whatever they want to be and wherever they want to go, and diesel is no exception. I like it when students finish a degree. Its something to be proud of and gives the students a background that can help them go in several different directions."

Barnett is a member of the advisory board that help the diesel program stay up to date with employer needs. "Advisory board members often hire our students, and this helps them see firsthand what we are teaching and what we could do to make our program better," McCarty said.

"Employers often mention the need to find dependable workers, so we put an emphasis on being dependable, which includes showing up for work each day and on time, as well as solid mastery of diesel skills," said McCarty.

ACTCs Diesel Technology Program is certified by NATEF (National Automotive Technicians Educational Foundation) /ASE. For more information on the program, contact McCarty at 606-326-2473 or email: shannon.mccarty@kctcs.edu.