Diesel Mechanics Program Partners with Area Business

With a mandate to provide training to produce a sufficient workforce for businesses within its service area, Lone Star College-North Harris has announced the addition of a diesel mechanics training program, beginning Jan. 12, 2009.

"Diesel-powered engines are more efficient and durable than their gasoline-burning counterparts," said Allen Rice, director of the new program. "These powerful engines are standard in our nation's trucks, heavy equipment, locomotives and buses and are becoming more prevalent in light vehicles, including passenger vehicles, pickups, and other work trucks."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow 11 percent from now until 2016. Moreover, the greater durability and economy of the diesel engine relative to the gasoline engine is expected to increase the number of buses, trucks, and other vehicles powered by diesel engines.

Entry-level mechanics can earn anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000, not including overtime. With two or three year's experience, mechanics can double their earning power, due to the increasing demand.

"Our LSCS Workforce office found diesel mechanics were in very high demand after canvassing companies in the North Houston area," Rice pointed out, "and apparently the challenge is the current skilled workforce of diesel technicians average age 45 - and, as the diesel industry has evolved, more electronics and computer chips have been added to make diesel engines more efficient. However, many of the existing mechanics have not had this training."

Along with an advisory committee of 20 representatives from businesses who hire diesel mechanics, Rice developed a program to train diesel mechanics that includes two certificates that can be earned in approximately 12 months.

The Diesel Technician's Certificate consists of five courses: Diesel Engine I, Diesel Engine II, Basic Electrical, Diesel Engine Electronics and Preventive Maintenance.  Tuition is $2,500.

The Heavy Truck Certificate includes three courses - Power Trains, Suspension and Steering and Brakes.  Tuition is $1,600.

Financial aid is available for both certificates and, as Rice pointed out, the community college tuition represents about 15 percent of that charged by private schools offering similar programs.

Classes will be taught three nights per week for three hours each evening.

"Almost every member of our advisory committee said the only thing stopping their business expansion was lack of diesel mechanics," Rice added.

Steve Malek, manager at Brookside Equipment and a member of the diesel mechanics advisory board, said the demand for mechanics is increasing every year. "For us, we've been growing our business so we need more technicians.

"In the industry, as a whole, we have older technicians who are retiring and we're looking for younger technicians to replace them," Malek continued. "We're primarily looking for individuals with a basic knowledge of equipment as well as their mechanical aptitude. Once we get them into our business, we'll give them specialized training in various areas."

Malek said he looks for people who are reliable, easy to work with and who are compatible with and caring about their colleagues. "We're all here to make a living," he explained, "so getting along in the workplace is vital to individual success."  

Malek also pointed to a change in the earnings paradigm that has emerged over recent years.  "Our youth are very computer-oriented," he said. "On the technical side, there's a shortage of those with the knowledge and ability to work on equipment.  Trained and skilled technicians who are working in shops are going to, eventually, make more than white collar workers.  It used to be the other way around...but we're seeing this trend continuing and expect it to complete the reversal within just a few years. "

To meet the growing demand, a diesel engine course was initiated at Cy-Ridge High School this semester.  Once they graduate, they can go to Lone Star College-North Harris and earn their certificates. If they want to go beyond the diesel mechanics certification, they can earn an associate degree in industrial technology.

"We are tremendously grateful to each member of our diesel mechanics advisory committee," Rice said.  Roy Allice of Stewart & Stevenson, for example, was able to donate a number of pieces of equipment for our program and Roy was also instrumental in our acquisition of engines for training to help us begin the program."

For more information about the new diesel engine program at Lone Star College-North Harris or to sign up, call Lorie Qualls 281.765.7750 or Allen Rice at 281.618.5610.

Lone Star College-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 E, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: NorthHarris.LoneStar.edu.

Lone Star College System consists of five colleges, including CyFair, Kingwood, Montgomery, North Harris, and Tomball, six centers and Lone Star College-University Center. It is the largest college system in the Houston area, and third largest community college district in Texas. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.

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Nov. 21, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            

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