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Class of the week: Caterpillar Dealer Service Technician

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Students in the Owens Caterpillar Dealer Service Technician program. (photo: Diane Larson)

Students in the Owens Caterpillar Dealer Service Technician program. (photos: Diane Larson)

When you walk into the Caterpillar garage at the Owens Transportation building, one of the first things you notice is how big the machines are.  Bulldozers and front loaders are crammed into the massive work space surrounded by equally huge parts that make these machines go.

More than 20 students are busily assembling and disassembling parts in the Caterpillar Dealer Service Technician class. The students are handpicked from their high school vocational programs by Caterpillar dealers in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.  They become paid interns who split their time between class work at Owens and shop work at the dealerships.

It’s an elite bunch. The Owens program is one of only 10 of its kind in the U.S. and one of only 21 worldwide.

Chandler Scott working on building a differential for a wheel loader.

Chandler Scott works on building a differential for a wheel loader.

Instructor Randy Rubley says these students go to school for eight weeks and then work at various Caterpillar dealerships in the tri-state area for eight weeks.  Virtually all will graduate into full-time jobs.  The current group leaves school in December to work at their dealerships then they return to the Owens campus in March and expect to graduate in May.

They’ll make a starting salary of $12 an hour and earn up to $20 an hour within the first five years.  Field service technicians make the most: up to $125,000 a year.  They’re the ones who go out into the field to fix the big, broken machines.  It’s hard work with long hours.  “They’re on call 365 days a year,” says Rubley. “Most field service technicians are young and energetic.  Most work six days a week, 11 to 12 hours a day.”

courtney cropped

Courtney Stone is one of only three women in the history of the Caterpillar program at Owens. She’s working on brakes for a motor grader.

Among this current group is Courtney Stone from Luckey, Ohio.  She’s one of only three women to ever go through the Owens Caterpillar program.  Stone went to Penta County Vocational School.  She interns at the Caterpillar dealership in Brownston, Michigan just outside of Detroit.

Tracy Campbell, chair of the Department of Transportation, says Stone was picked because she’s good at what she does; not because she’s a woman.

But she’s a woman who likes working on the big, powerful machines.  “Earth moving equipment is so much cooler,” she says.  “All that raw power.  I just think it’s awesome the way it can move ungodly amounts of stuff.  It’s amazing.”

 

 

 

Photo by Diane Larson

Pete Anderson (left), Caleb Vacha (center) and Tyler Yaw work on a differential steering unit for a Challenger tractor.

 

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