RICHLAND – The Diesel Equipment Technology program has been accredited by the Associated Equipment Distributors Foundation.
Achieving accreditation with the Illinois-based trade organization represents a step forward in building the program to meet the needs of the college’s industry partners, said Brent Johnson, director of the Diesel Technology Academy at Hinds.
In 2017, the state modified requirements for graduating career-tech students by adopting the use of a nationally recognized credential. The AEDF stamp of approval fit that need perfectly, Johnson said.
“After evaluating several organizations, we found the AED Foundation to be a perfect fit for our program,” Johnson said. “After working with AEDF to attain accreditation, our institution realized that there are many more benefits available to us beyond the testing and credentials that we first needed.”
In 2016, the program expanded the second half of its degree plan to a facility on Old Highway 49 in Richland, near Empire Truck Sales LLC and Stribling Equipment LLC. The program and the industries partner to train diesel equipment professionals for both medium and heavy trucks and heavy equipment. Introductory courses in the program are offered at the Gray-Partridge building on Highway 18, minutes from the Raymond Campus.
During a ceremony April 10 at the Richland facility, officials lauded the program’s role in filling a need in the diesel technician field and the state workforce as a whole.
“The problem the industry faces is that we have a lack of qualified technicians, which is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of baby boomers will be retiring soon,” said Martin McCormack, associate director of development and workforce for AEDF. “That’s really what is driving our main focus at the foundation.” McCormack said the organization’s research has shown the heavy equipment industry is losing $2.4 billion in potential revenue due to the shortage.
The organization aims to have 50 accredited college and recognized high school programs by the end of 2018 to fortify the pipeline of qualified diesel technicians, as well as lower the amount of time it takes to accredit one. Currently, it’s three years on average.
Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse credited Empire Truck Sales and Stribling Equipment CEO Jerry Swanson and Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, for helping make the program worthy of the organization’s stamp of approval.
“We had a struggling diesel mechanic program at the Raymond Campus,” Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse said. “It was only possible through Jerry’s company’s investment of their funds to see we had a high-quality program available to the industry.”
Swanson spoke to the greater need for industries such as his to help fill the skills gap in the workforce of the state and the nation – specifically people who have some college credit under their belt but no academic credential beyond high school, thus limiting their marketability in the workforce.
“The reality is that they’re a lost resource,” Swanson said. “Our objective is to take those resources as quick as we can qualify them, people who have good hand-eye coordination with mechanical things, and put them in our industry. We have great value for a career.”