Testing The Next Generation of Diesel Mechanics
Diesel mechanics are in high demand, but supply is low. Unfortunately, it seems every year we’re reminded of the lack of skilled diesel mechanics in America. Worse yet, the prospects for improvement don’t look promising at the present time. However, what this shortage means for anyone considering a career in diesel—be it heavy equipment, the agriculture side of things, or even automotive—is that with the right education and skillsets you’ll be in the driver seat should you choose to travel this road. Trust us, there will be a job waiting for you—and the pay is good. It’s not uncommon for a heavy equipment field tech to bring home more than $100,000 a year.
For a glimpse into the world of upcoming diesel technicians, we attended the 2021 Diesel Equipment Technology career competition, a workforce development event put on by SkillsUSA Illinois in partnership with Caterpillar, and hosted at Altorfer CAT in Springfield, Illinois. Technical schools and high schools—specifically Illinois Central College, Johnsburg High School, and Marengo Community High School—sent their best and brightest students to compete. A win-win for all parties involved, students were able to put their skills to the test in front of potential future employers, employers on hand were able to scout for talent, and schools were obviously able to tout their technical program’s success with a win.
Despite the restrictions and guidelines associated with Covid-19, the technical committee behind the event was committed to holding an in-person competition. As a result of all their hard work and dedication, the Diesel Equipment Technology career competition was the only in-person SkillsUSA event held in Illinois this year. That’s commitment. We spent the day at Altorfer CAT watching some of the brightest young minds in the state troubleshooting equipment, working through schematics, performing component identifications, and carrying out inspections. In the following pages, we’ll cover each test station to give you a sense of just how proficient, time-aware, and multi-faceted today’s diesel technicians have to be.
The ICC Connection
As for the cream of the crop at the SkillsUSA competition, Illinois Central College (ICC) sends the best of the best from its Diesel Powered Equipment Technology and Caterpillar Dealer Service Technology programs. The latter program was developed as a joint venture between Caterpillar and ICC, and the two-year program is designed to train students to become entry-level Caterpillar dealer service technicians upon graduation. While enrolled in the program, students are able to serve four 8-week paid internships at their sponsoring Caterpillar dealership, accumulating invaluable on-the-job training in the process. That’s right, they pay you to go to school—and you get a dollar per hour raise each time a new 8-week internship begins. Started in 1998, the goal of the program was to meet the expanding need for heavy equipment technicians, and that still remains true today. The world needs diesel technicians in a bad way. If you’re ready to get on the fast-track to a rewarding career, check it out for yourself at icc.edu.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL COLLEGE
JOHNSBURG HIGH SCHOOL
MARENGO COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL
RUSH TRUCK CENTERS