Starting in May 2017, Rappahannock Community College will offer a career studies certificate in Diesel Mechanics Technology. This program, initially offered for dual enrollment high school students, will be available for adult learners in the evenings.
The program’s aim, from the very start, will be to train competent diesel mechanics for entry-level positions. According to its director, Steve Patt, there is a dire need for this skill set locally and over a wider area.
“I am a technician that we are making into an instructor,” says Patt, who has worked 36 years as a diesel mechanic, shop owner, and foreman. “I bring the ‘real life’ to the program.”
A New Kent resident, Patt has been teaching at the Bridging Communities Career and Technical Center in New Kent for the past two years. It is thanks to this partnership with Bridging Communities that makes the RCC Diesel program possible. Evening learners will meet in both the RCC and Bridging Communities spaces, in the renovated historic New Kent High School.
The graduates of Pat’s high school program have been quite successful in the working world. His very first diesel class graduated just five students, he says, and four of those are fully employed in the field. He is especially excited about the prospects for his adult students, whom he proposes to start with an engine-rebuilding class, “beginning with the basics, with a good look at the diesel internal combustion engine and how it works.”
Patt is advised by a committee representing local industries with a keen interest in the outcome of his program; among others, Carter-Caterpillar and James River Equipment. He is also working with additional companies who are interested in setting up internships with his high school and adult students.
“All of these businesses are going through a ‘graying’,” says Patt. “Their older technicians are starting to retire. There’s a definite need for younger technicians willing to learn and to work their way through the ranks.”
“My goal is to make students entry-level mechanics,” says Patt. He explains that when students complete the program and begin work, perhaps with John Deere or Caterpillar, the company will train them to their equipment specifications. Patt sees it as his responsibility to get them to that skill level.
Patt notes that due to RCC’s location, graduates of his program who want to stay on dry land can work for any number of Richmond-based firms. But should they enjoy working near the water, there are many jobs in Deltaville, Urbanna, and other places throughout the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.
“Even the big sailboats that you see on the river, one might think that they are all wind-powered, but many of them have diesel generators for air conditioning and power below deck,” says Patt.
“I tell my students that this course is structured for trucks, but there are so many needs in this area.” He mentions marine and forestry applications, and adds, “We’re on the I-95 corridor, from Florida to Maine, and there is so much going on just north of Richmond. I have expressed to my guys and gals — we’re trucks, but we’re so much more.”
Those who are interested in the new Diesel Mechanics Technology Career Studies Certificate at RCC are encouraged to visit www.rappahannock.edu/diesel for complete details.