When a student makes the decision to pursue a career as a construction equipment service technician, chances are the student chooses Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C. The Construction Equipment and Forestry Technology (C&F Tech) program at Wake Tech is a five-semester program that leads to an Associate of Applied Science degree in heavy equipment and transport technology. The C&F Tech program is sponsored jointly by John Deere Construction and Forestry Company, regional John Deere dealers and Wake Tech. Wake Tech's program is also accredited by the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) Foundation, and is one of only three community colleges in the nation to have achieved this distinction.
According to Dan Moore, president of R.W. Moore Equipment Company, a John Deere dealer in Raleigh, his father was instrumental in getting the program started at Wake.
"It's a John Deere-specific program; it's a partnership. We committed a certain level of resources along with other dealers in the region. We had a commitment from Deere, and then Wake Tech built a new ($5-million) facility. It's something none of us could have done individually."
Although the Deere program is only five years old, Wake Tech has, in fact, had a technician degree program since 1975. Enrollment, however, has increased dramatically in the past few years.
"In 1991 when I came on we had six students," says Ronald Lowe, department head and instructor in the C&F Tech program. "In the last two years the number of students has increased, and we're up to 65 to 70 students at any one time."
The C&F Tech program is designed to upgrade the technical competence and professional level of the participating student. Students are provided with classroom lecture and laboratory experiences on John Deere equipment. Other manufacturers are also represented and students are given training on that equipment as well.
What sets the C&F Tech program apart is the internship experience during the summer. After a semester of classroom work, the student follows it up with related work experience in a dealership. Instruction covers the fundamentals of engines, powertrains, hydraulics, and electrical systems, as well as new developments in construction equipment.
Since considerable time is spent at the dealership, the program requires the student to have a sponsoring John Deere dealer. The responsibility of the dealership is to provide training-related employment for the student and to serve as a mentor during the work experience.
Lowe explains that training on all brands of construction equipment is important since dealers service and maintain equipment from many different manufacturers. The school has received donations of used equipment and engines for the students, and Wake uses software from John Deere, Caterpillar, Volvo, and Cummins to help the students get a better perspective of how the equipment works. Wake Tech's facility is an acre under roof, and the shop is air conditioned and fully equipped with all of the diagnostic machinery and tools a student might encounter on the job.
Dan Moore points out that "as hard as it is to find qualified mechanics, it's also hard to find qualified students. It's quite a commitment. You work and study full time, and you have to maintain a certain GPA. However, the John Deere certification program is part of a traditional two-year degree, so when a student graduates he has a career path ahead of him."