(SWEETWATER) – Jackson Gardner, 19, of Abilene sees a big future in his career plans as he works toward a certificate in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College.
“The demand for diesel mechanics in big companies sparked my interest,” he said.
Gardner will not be finished after he graduates in 2019 because he wants to pursue certificates in Automotive Technology and Welding Technology.
“I believe it will lead to many more job opportunities since I will be a well-rounded employee,” Gardner said.
Diesel service technician jobs are expected to grow to more than 304,000 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Employees are looking for students that have basic technical skills and are eager to learn,” said Mark Koslan, a TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology instructor. “As with most businesses, they want employees that are hardworking and dependable with good communication skills.”
Koslan said some of the area options for graduates include truck and equipment dealerships, independent repair facilities, fleet truck companies, and the oil and gas industry.
Ryan Herrera, operations manager for the Concho Valley Rural Transit District in San Angelo, has seen the impact the oil and gas industry has on getting maintenance done on his fleet of 62 vehicles, including five diesel-engine buses.
The transit district does not have its own maintenance facility, so work has to be locally contracted out. Herrera said as the oil and gas industry booms, there are less workers available to do preventive maintenance. As the oil and gas industry’s impact decreases, there are more workers, and demand for repair work is high.
Herrera said the transit district has also seen the impact on its drivers.
“We have a good benefits package here,” he said. “When the boom started back up about a year and a half ago, we lost a lot of drivers. At the end of the day, they realize they had it made here. We are always looking for drivers.”
Herrera said there are plans for the transit district, which serves 12 Concho Valley counties, to build an on-site maintenance facility. This means the transit district will have a need in the future for diesel mechanics and other workers.
“We are doing the planning right now,” Herrera said. “We will go to the state to ask for money to help build the facility.”
Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores Inc., which has a location on Interstate 20 in Sweetwater, uses online job boards, recruiters, and partnerships with technical colleges and universities to find qualified diesel mechanics. Some of the qualities the company seeks in job candidates include up to two years of experience working with Class 7 and 8 trucks, knowledge of basic electrical theory and troubleshooting, and the willingness to mentor diesel mechanic apprentices.
“It’s very difficult to find candidates to fill diesel mechanic positions,” said Tara Carr, a media relations supervisor for Love’s. “This is not Love’s-specific, (but) the entire travel/transportation industry is feeling the effects of a lack of skilled tradesmen. Mechanics have options; getting them through our doors is only half the battle.”
Roy Banda, 32, of Comanche is studying for the Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. Banda, a 2004 Comanche High School graduate, chose to pursue the field because of its specializations.
“I feel great about my job plans and outcomes, and I am willing to relocate for employment opportunities,” said Banda, a former U.S. Marine. “I already have companies interested in me, and I am looking for great benefits for my family.”
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.