Technology and “Earn by Learning” combine to hone the skills of transportation technicians
The transport sector, like all other sectors, faces a labor shortage. This shortage is of the order of Certified diesel technicians and mechanics capable of servicing commercial trucks, buses and diesel-powered transport vehicles used for critical functions such as construction, agriculture, public transport and emergency services.
As the industry, equipment and standards change, as well as the large number of technicians reaching retirement age, the industry will need 200,000 new technicians and mechanics over the next ten years. However, current diesel technology training programs only produce about 3,500 graduates per year.
In Alabama, it is estimated that the state will need 3,000 trained diesel technicians over the next 6 years.
The state therefore designed a program to attract active adults to the field. One of the big initiatives, created in 2020, is the Diesel by Distance program, based at Wallace State Community College. The college is one of the largest in the state’s education system and accommodates 6,000 students.
The program allows students to study from anywhere – even on the road, with live commentary and instructor training – while participating in paid apprenticeships that allow them to earn as they learn. Teaching takes place in an online format, but includes on-campus skill demonstrations scheduled at the student’s convenience, such as weekends or evenings. Students earn multiple certificates or an associate of applied science in diesel technology.
In April, the program was upgraded as an immersive learning startup TRANSFR, which will provide virtual reality (VR) to train program participants. “All skills gaps are local, and what the industry has made clear to us is the need to increase traditional classroom education with the first-hand work experience that only in-service training. job course can so often deliver, ”said Bharani Rajakumar, CEO of TRANSFR. A true partnership between educators and industry leaders, Diesel by Distance has bridged the gap between workplace learning and classroom instruction, accelerating journeys to well-paying jobs for thousands of workers. .
“The integration of simulation-based technology into this program is helping to spark new interest in the program and careers in diesel technology more broadly,” said Dr. Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College.
The Alabama Trucking Association is joining this effort. “Professional diesel technicians and professional truckers are the lifeblood of our industry,” says Mark Colson, president of the Alabama Trucking Association. “Those with a diesel technician degree can find employment in almost any community in Alabama and can use this training to immediately generate a solid income. The diesel technician’s journey also offers enormous growth opportunities.
Attract students to this program in a multi-pronged effort. “To recruit students, Wallace State uses social media, email, television and radio marketing to spread the word and participates in live events such as career fairs and college days,” he said. explained Karolewics. “We have a strong relationship with local high schools and vocational schools, and we work closely with them to recruit dual-enrolled students. Additionally, we are working with our industry partners to provide opportunities for their current employees who need or want additional training to join the program.
Students can choose to pursue an associate’s degree, which lasts four semesters, or they can seek one of the short-term certificates, which last for one semester. The cost for an associate’s degree is around $ 11,000 and $ 2,000 for a short-term certificate. There are several forms of financial aid available to students, including scholarships and grants.
The goal of the program says Karolewics is to place every student in a job, whether it’s a paid internship or an apprenticeship, while they’re still in the program. This way, they gain work experience while learning, and when they graduate, they already have a job. Usually, employers give students a pay raise after they graduate or graduate.
The Diesel by Distance program has many industry partners – from national partners like Kubota, Caterpillar and Snap-on, to those with local and regional offices like Southland International, MyWay Transportation and RE Garrison Trucking.
It’s also important that we communicate with people who have a high likelihood of success in the industry, ”Colson says. “Particularly for diesel technicians, students who are junior and senior in high school, especially those already in agricultural or technical career programs, are essential to educate about the availability of careers in trucking.”
Broaden the search for talent
The search for talent includes looking for those who might not traditionally be in these types of jobs. “Our research and data indicate that women, minorities and veterans are all groups of people who can ‘earn by learning’ by obtaining diesel technician certification and on-the-job training,” says Colson.
In fact, in 2020, part of the funding for the Diesel by Design program came from the National Institute of Women in Trades, Technology and Science to recruit and register aspiring female technicians.
Other funding in 2020 came from the WORC grant from the Ministry of Labor in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission. With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. And funding for recent virtual reality training has come from the US Department of Labor and state and federal agencies of the National Science Foundation.
Funding for these types of programs is available since the earn and learn method has been proven to be effective and Diesel by Distance is no exception with a replacement rate of 99.5%.
“With this next-generation approach to technical training, we have the opportunity to meet a pressing need of employers, while allowing those looking for work to access secure and well-paying jobs,” said Karolewics. “The integration of simulation-based technology into this program is helping to spark new interest in the program and careers in diesel technology more broadly.