News Column

Diesel Mechanics in High Demand

July 24, 2013

Diesel mechanic jobs are in high demand and a large, yet local, business is offering training in the field through a new internship program.

On Thursday, a news conference will bring together Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, Midland College and others in Midland who are promoting the partnership with Warren CAT.

"The bottom line, that's one of those areas in high, high demand," Willie Taylor, the executive director of Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, said. "The companies are in dire need, and continuously need new hires. Some of the folks who are good mechanics are aging out. This type of partnership, no doubt gives tremendous access to the Permian Basin."

Taylor said it's expected the Permian Basin will see a 36.4 percent increase in demand for diesel engine specialists between 2012 and 2020. So teaming up with Warren CAT will give students an opportunity to develop skills for entry-level service technicians. Warren CAT, a Caterpillar and heavy equipment dealer with locations in Midland (one of the largest in the world, no less) and Odessa, will provide equipment to the hands-on group work for students.

MC will teach the curriculum based on its Diesel Technology associate degree program incorporated with Caterpillar's service technician curriculum. Also, MC faculty has worked closely with Warren CAT employees to design training to simulate on-the-job situations.

Jeremy Stewart, a corporate recruiter, travels across the country hiring on new mechanics to work in the Permian Basin. For some perspective, nationwide there's a shortage of 65,000 diesel mechanics so competition is tough out there, Stewart said.

"It's a dirty job and it's not for everyone, but you can make a great living and go home at the end of the day knowing you accomplished something," he said. A starting mechanic could bring home about $50,000 a year with others earning more than $100,000 annually, Stewart said.

Many of their new hires come from the University Technical Institute or military bases, but currently the eight local companies that fall under Warren have more than 200 jobs to fill. The internship program won't immediately assist their needs today, but they're planning for the future, trying to "get the younger generation interested in the field," Stewart said.

Odessa College has teamed up with Warren CAT, who has donated equipment for their diesel mechanic program, for example, but right now there are no plans for an internship program through the school, Stewart said.

"The connections that students who enter this program will be making with the industry are invaluable," Pete Avalos, the MC automotive/diesel technology program chair, said. "These students will not only receive standard industry training in diesel technology, but will also gain hands-on experience using equipment manufactured by one of the world's leading diesel power and machinery companies."

Taylor added that not many partnerships such as this exist, but "hopefully this will be a start," he said.

Johnny Warren, the company's former owner who's since passed away, was a Permian Basin Workforce board member, and Taylor said he strongly believed in investing in the community.

A mechanic job does require some strength, aptitude and understanding of technology depending on the position and the on-the-job training a company might provide, Taylor said, but it certainly can be a job a woman could do, too, he said.

Stewart agreed. In fact, he recently hired two women who were the top of their class.

"It's a wide-open field out there. If there's anything else to convince young folks ... they don't understand what's needed for a career. We try to encourage them into the training then they can become a guarantee hire once they finish up," he said.

Businesses are focusing on locals who already live in the Permian Basin and who are ready to enter into the labor force, Taylor said.

"We have enough young folks who graduated from high school to tell there's career options out there. We're trying to get that message out to them," Taylor said.

Source: (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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