Joining us on this episode is Brent Jenkins, campus president of Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, IN.
Lincoln Tech has 22 campuses located throughout the United States, and they have been educating tomorrow’s workforce since 1946. Lincoln Tech trains its students to enter the workforce in the automotive, skilled trades, health sciences, culinary, spa and cosmetology, and information technology career fields. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Bob Martin: Welcome to this edition of Imagine America Radio. I’m Bob Martin, president and CEO of the Imagine America Foundation, and I’m joined on today’s podcast with my colleague, Lee Doubleday. Today’s podcast is the third in our September transportation awareness series, and the topic? Diesel mechanic careers. Joining us today is Brent Jenkins, campus president of Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lincoln Tech has 22 campuses located throughout the United States. These campuses have been educating tomorrow’s workforce since 1946 and are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Lincoln Tech trains its students to enter the workforce in automotive, skills trade, health careers, culinary, spa and cosmetology, and information technology career fields. Brent, thank you for joining us.
Brent Jenkins: Thanks, Lee and Bob, for the opportunity to talk about the diesel programs and diesel careers.
Bob: Hey, Brent, as I said earlier, today’s topic is diesel mechanic careers. As a leading provider of education in the diesel area, we couldn’t think of anybody better to join us on today’s call but you. So could you tell us a little bit—or give our listeners a better idea of what exactly a diesel technician does? What’s a day like for them, so to speak?
Brent: Yeah, great question. And one thing we’ve seen recently in the field, feedback from the employers, is the name diesel tech implies working on diesel engines, which is certainly a key component—but our graduates are trained to do far more than just work on the diesel engines. They work on the entire truck systems. So, they learn how to diagnose and fix problems with the trucks, the trailers, other types of diesel equipment. They learn various aspects of the mechanical, the electrical systems that are in the truck systems. Safety on how to pass DOT inspections. So, a typical day really depends upon the type of employer, but in many times they’re going to work in some type of a large shop where trucks or trailers or heavy equipment are going to come in. It could be for preventive maintenance, where they’re going to do—just like we do on our automobiles, they’re going to do preventive maintenance or it could be diagnosing and fixing any of various problems that can occur with the truck, with the trailer, with electronic systems, with the fifth-wheel apparatus, with the brake systems—to make sure those vehicles can operate safely on our roads.
Lee Doubleday: All right. Thanks, Brent. This is Lee Doubleday. I’m talking to Brent Jenkins, campus president of Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, Indiana, and today we’re talking about diesel mechanic careers. Let’s talk a little bit about the career outlook for diesel technicians. Can you tell us what the Bureau of Labor Statistics states as far as the demand for diesel technicians go?
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. Diesel mechanics is in high demand. By the year 2028, across the United States, it’s projected there’s going to be the need for about 300,000 diesel technicians across the country. Here in Indiana alone, the need is expected to be around 9,000 diesel techs.
Lee: Wow. All right, Brent. Most of our listeners probably think about people working on trucks—big rigs, right? But what are some other career opportunities out there for diesel technicians that people normally probably wouldn’t think about?
Brent: Yeah. You know what? There’s multiple opportunities and avenues that people can take this type of training. You think about any type of piece of equipment that uses a diesel engine. And so beyond your big rigs, much of your construction equipment—heavy equipment, a lot of your farm equipment—your tractors and combines—use diesel. In the marine industry, cruise ships and boats operate off diesel. Generators, diesel power generators. You start opening up a lot of other opportunities in a lot of other fields beyond just the trucking and transportation logistics. One particular employer here in the city of Indianapolis is the City of Indianapolis, with their bus systems, and so many of the buses for public transportation are diesel buses. And that’s an employer that’s hired our graduates in the past.
Lee: Brent, just another one that came to my mind is we’ve talked to people like yourself that tell us how diesel mechanics have been critical in this whole COVID situation, that making sure that there’s alternative energy sources for all these critical care facilities.
Brent: Absolutely. So, you think about making sure that your hospitals can stay functioning and running during bad weather, and every one of these facilities as a safety mechanism with a diesel power generator to keep the lights on and keep the equipment running. And somebody has to make sure that that equipment is properly maintained and, should it malfunction, that it can be quickly brought back online and powering that facility.
Lee: With diesel technicians being in such high demand, it seems like something worth getting an education in, to say the least. Should someone go to school to learn how to become a diesel technician? And what does a typical program include? Is it heavy equipment, suspension systems? And how long is a diesel technician program? In a sort of a three-parted question there for you.
Brent: Yeah, sure. We’ll tackle them one at a time. Absolutely, I would say diesel technician’s a great field to get into. Feedback from the employers is that the demand is high. And as we stated for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the statistics certainly show that the demand is high. For a person to complete a diesel technician program, it depends upon a couple of options. We have both a day and an evening class. The day class can be completed in 56 weeks. An evening program is going to take about 18 months to complete. You know you’ve got a good program when it’s really comprehensive, and it needs to address not just the diesel engine, but all the different components of the truck system. And so, as I mentioned before, electrical systems, definitely the fuel systems—it’s really important to have an understanding of the different types of fuel systems that are used in the logistics industry now—the drive train systems, steering, and suspension—how to do alignments—both air and hydraulic brakes. They need to know, especially if they go into the repair aspect, a bit of welding and hydraulics. Certainly, preventive maintenance: how to keep the trucks and equipment well-maintained to begin with. And then, of course, the diesel engines—everything from the basic maintenance to complete teardown and reconstruction of a diesel engine.
Bob: Brent, this is Bob Martin again. You got me, okay. You got me interested. I’m a parent, or I have a passion; I want to do this. I want to pursue it and want to look at a school to do that. But what I’m hearing from you is that when I look at a tour—to tour campus, or to look at a school I go to—there’s a number of things that I should be looking for. Can you help us a little bit on that? I mean, you talked through it. It sounds to me like you’ve got to make sure you got the state-of-the-art equipment. You’ve got to be working on the latest thing so that you get the most updated training and capabilities. Then besides that, I’m assuming you’ve got to think about accreditation. You want to go to a—you want to go to a really good, legitimate, federally recognized school. You’ve got to be thinking about what’s it going to cost me to be there, because that’s the link to the program. At least in my mind, that’s the link to the program. Then you’ve got to be thinking about these instructors. Are these the men and the women that are really out there doing it? Can I really relate to them? And then, finally, this whole partnership with employers because I think that’s critical, which is, “When I’m all done with you, Brent, where am I going to have employment opportunities? Where are they going to be? And can I really get the bang for the buck here?” Can you help us understand that a little bit better?
Brent: Yeah. Great questions. You sound almost exactly like our parents and students that come in for a tour, because those are the right questions to ask. Again, breaking down some of the different components that you asked about. Certainly, when you tour a campus and look at a diesel program, you want a well-rounded education. It’s important that the graduates, when they come out of a diesel program, have multiple skill sets because the industry is looking for people that can do more than one thing. And I think beyond just having a well-rounded program where you learn a variety of different systems of the truck systems, you also want to look beyond just the hands-on skills. Many of the employers are also concerned about the soft skills. And so, look for a program that’s going to teach you about how to work in the field and how to understand, how the shops function, and how to understand how the industry has changed over the years—something that’s going to help you build your critical thinking skills. The difference between a tech that can change out a brake or change out an oil versus the young man or young woman that can go to a vehicle that’s not working and do the proper diagnosis and identify—based upon the data from the scan tools, the visual inspection—really start to identify what’s wrong with this and how to fix it. Those type of critical thinking skills are so necessary to the employers.
When you’re looking at a program, while you do want to see some of the latest and greatest and the most newfangled pieces of equipment, you also want to make sure that there’s equipment there that’s common out in the field. And so, the latest and greatest diesel engines that are out there are not in every vehicle. There’s a lot of vehicles on the road and out in fields and on the construction sites that are 6, 8, 10 years old. And so, having that well-rounded education where you’re learning not just what came out last year but maybe what came out 5 years ago and 10 years ago, you never know what you’re going to be working on. So that’s the key to staying relevant with the current work environment: it’s to know both the old and the new, a variety of equipment. Again, with each individual part, you need to make sure that the diagnosis equipment and then the repair equipment—the tools and equipment and the training aids are available, be it electrical or air conditioning or suspension systems or any of them. Accreditation is absolutely—absolutely—important. Me personally, I would not recommend anybody to go to school that’s not accredited. Accreditation means that you’ve been reviewed by an accrediting body. You’ve been reviewed also by your peers.
So that not only has the accrediting body. I said that we met the standards of accreditation. But our peers, people that operate other schools across the nation, say that we meet their standards of accreditation and the criteria. So definitely, accreditation is important. Quality of instructors: to go to a school where you have instructors that have real-life field experience, that have been out in the field. It’s one thing to teach a person what a tool is. Anybody can look at a tool and say, “Here’s what a tool is.” It’s a different experience when you have an instructor that can stand there and tell you a story about a particular challenge of a piece of equipment that needed repair to maintain and to be able to say, “Here’s the tool. Here’s the piece of equipment. Here’s the technique that I used to fix this.” That’s the type of experience that can make you very marketable and very much in demand. And then I want to finish with something at our campus we’re very proud of, but you certainly want to see on any campus that you went to visit, and that is the partnerships with the employers. It should be very visible and very apparent when you tour a campus that the partnerships are there, they’re evident, that those partners are very participatory with that school.
Bob: That’s great. I know Lee’s got a couple of other things, but I think that partnership thing is really critical, and I think it’s really one that really makes your particular set of schools shine. That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where the parent or the significant other that’s doing the tour says, “Yeah, I get it. I want to be part of Peterbilt. I want to be part of Mack. I want to be part of whatever it is,” and you give them the ability to prepare to do that.
Brent: Absolutely. And if you tour my campus in particular, you’ll be able to see very quickly our partnerships with T&C, with UPS, with Penske Trucks. I can sit here and name a few. They’re very visible. They’re out there. You can see it just walking down the halls and, probably more importantly, anybody that wants to hang around the campus for a little bit can see those employers as they begin to come into the campus. And we schedule these employers to be able to come in and to present to the students and to talk to them about the career fields, to talk about the technology that’s out there, to talk about the opportunities, or maybe these employers talk about the opportunities with their particular place of business. Not only is it evident just from their participation with the sponsorships, with the scholarships that they offer, but even on a consistent basis with them coming into the campus and interacting with our students and our classes and our instructors, to make sure that our students are seen not only from the school standpoint but also from that employer standpoint.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. I think nowadays that’s critical. Go ahead, Lee. I’m sorry. I interrupted you.
Lee: No, no, you’re fine. Yeah, you’re fine. All right, Mr. Jenkins. Now, a good number of our audience are high school counselors or someone who’s a parent—someone who may be helping the student make a decision on where they may want to go to school or what career paths they may want to pursue. So let’s say I’m someone who is interested in becoming a diesel technician. What would you say are three or four personality traits that make a great diesel technician that might help identify people who would make a great fit for this career choice?
Brent: Yeah, great question. And if I may, when speaking to some of the guidance counselors and the administrators in the high schools that are helping these young people with making a decision, the ones that know they want to be a diesel technician, it’s pretty well a shoo-in. The greater need is for those young people that don’t know what they want to be and they don’t know what’s the right direction. So really to identify some of those personality traits, certainly people that love to work with their hands. There’s a difference between working on a smaller automobile and working on a big rig. You got to want to climb up in that engine compartment where you can fit your whole body up in there. People that love to tinker, love to fix things, that want to learn tools. In this day and age, so many of these systems are computerized, and our diesel program has two separate components of the electrical systems. To have somebody that has that technical knowledge, that has that understanding and ability to learn how to operate a scan tool and how to look at the diagnosis and run the codes and then take that back to the vehicle and to determine—those kind of problem-solving skills. Now, that’s something that we teach, but if you have that already inherent, and it’s a personality trait that’s already exhibited, somebody that wants to say, “This is not working,” and, “How do I get this fixed?” those are the type of people that can make great technicians because they’re natural problem solvers.
But beyond that, because our program is comprehensive enough, we have the ability to instill that in them, where we can teach them the techniques to problem-solve, and we can teach them how to break down different components of the truck system. And so just finding somebody that can follow instructions and really has that attention to detail. And then the X factor is always just the passion—somebody that can get passionate about working in this field and do it with an enthusiasm and just that pure joy that comes. The best people that work in the field are the ones that—they just love what they’re doing. So, finding those traits are important.
Bob: We hear that across the board: passion, passion, passion. If you can find that one—if you can find that kid or the adult with that passion to do it, you’re halfway there, I think, Brent, aren’t you?
Brent: Yep, absolutely, absolutely. And I think that passion, that desire to learn, that drive can overcome—maybe their math skills aren’t perfect. Maybe they’re not a straight-A student in math. You don’t have to be a straight-A student in math to be a great diesel technician. Maybe it’s some of their writing skills that aren’t top-notch in writing term papers. That’s fine. But if they have a love and a passion for this, they’ll learn it. Because it’s so hands-on interactive, they just absorb that knowledge and that experience.
Bob: And we’ve been talking to Brent Jenkins, campus president, Indianapolis, Indiana, at Lincoln Tech. Hey, Brent, before we close, I want to give you an opportunity to put your contact information out there—websites, emails, that sort of thing—so anybody that’s interested and wants to call you directly, if that’s appropriate, they can do that or they can email you. So how would they do that?
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. I got several methods. You can go to the website, lincolntech.edu. Tons of information available on our website, and you can come directly to us to be able to help out with some questions. The campus phone number will always take a live call. It’s (317) 632-5553. Again, (317) 632-5553. It will connect you to the admissions office. They can answer questions if people want information to really help them to figure out what’s the best next steps for them and point them in the right direction.
Bob: Great. I just want to thank you. We’ve been talking to Brent Jenkins, campus president, Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, Indiana. Today’s podcast is a part of Imagine America Radio’s September transportation awareness series. I want to thank Brent for taking out time from his very busy schedule to be our guest today, and urge any interested parties to go to our website if they want to hear this broadcast or any one of our—now approaching nearly 100—podcasts. This is Bob Martin, hoping you have a great day. Goodbye