Cover Story: Teaming Up With Tech Schools

Training tomorrow's technicians: WyoTech is helping to fill the void.


“There’s a lot in the industry you can get into, so your choices are wide open,” Salmon says. “The teachers will bend over backwards to make sure you get your stuff done. If you’re struggling, they’ll make sure you get the help.”

Being around company officials at the quarterly job fairs is a big help in preparing to find a future employer, he says.

“It’s very helpful because a lot of people come straight from school and they’ve never done interviews and you could have 12 or 13 interviews in two days,” Salmon says. “A lot of people walk out of here with jobs. You get the best bang for your buck, basically. I really enjoyed being here and am enthusiastic about getting out there and getting into the workforce.”

Joseph Jensen, 18, of Colorado Springs, CO, also has a job waiting for him when he graduates from his advanced diesel program. Thanks to his diverse coursework, he says he is now ready for wherever his career takes him.

“You can go into so many different industries—over the road, marine,” he says. “I do plan on going up into management over time—start off and grow with a company. The (curriculum) has helped a lot because when I get out of here, they’re going to start me on (preventative maintenance inspections) and things like that, and we’ve actually got to work on it, so when we come out of here we have the experience and know the correct way to do things, instead of us developing a bad habit.”

Flint Nakamura, Jr., 18, of Maui, HI came a long way to Laramie after seeing an ad for WyoTech on TV. He talked with a representative at a college fair, and decided to take the leap.

“When you go from 80 degree weather to 20, that was hard for me, but this is a really good program,” he says. “I learned a lot more than if was going to stay home and just do on-the-job training.”

Coming from a third-generation construction family, Nakamura, Jr. is looking forward to returning to his considerably warmer home state to begin a career of his own in the industry. He says that dream might have never been realized if not for WyoTech.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he says. “That’s one thing instructors stress—‘You can’t do it’ doesn’t exist. There’s always a way to do something, and you’ve got to do it right. There’s no short cuts. They stress your safety and the safety of the person who’s driving that truck and everyone else on the road.”

FUTURE SHOCK

At a time when the shortage of qualified technicians is becoming severe, WyoTech is well-positioned to provide fleets with needed reinforcements in the next few years, Enyeart says.

“It’s a dynamic problem,” he says. “Clearly, all the boomers retiring in the next five years is a huge factor, and another is this (current) generation is very sharp, and that type of person really shies away from getting dirty—they have seen a world where they can make money and stay clean. I don’t think there are as many kids in the high schools (learning shop skills). It’s a series of events, and the industry is doing it to itself because trucking has grown so much in the last five years, so of course, the demand for technicians go up.”

Locating a consistent source of young, talented technicians these days is critical for a large employer like Penske, Prindiville says.

“When you get the right person in the door—our staff and our employment base is the window to the organization—that means a lot to our customers,” she says. “Another is that we have the ability to retain and develop our future leaders when we’re able to attract a quality hire, so our talent pipeline will be filled with quality people we can continuously develop and improve and who could go on to be future leaders.”

Warpness says fleet officials that are concerned about not getting enough young, quality technicians need to get out to the high schools and make their presence felt.

“It’s getting harder every year to build interest,” he says. “There’s still that veil over the industry that this is a backyard, blue-collar (job) you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.”

Otherwise, Enyeart says fleets are more than welcome to come see for themselves the kind of quality WyoTech is producing.

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