Scholarships Bring Opportunities to Students Looking for a Sustainable Career Path

Published on 10/12/2021 4:43:57 PM

At American Trucking Associations’ 2021 Technology & Maintenance Council Fall Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition in Cleveland last month, five students received diesel technician scholarships offered through partnerships between TMC and various schools. Four half-scholarships were also awarded to students at Lincoln Technical Institute, which has 22 campuses across the country. Scholarship winners are funded by the schools and selected by TMC’s Professional Technician Development Committee.

These graduates will enter a market with an increasing technician shortage. The TechForce Foundation in its 2020 Transportation Technician Supply & Demand Report found a 3-to-1 ratio of demand for technicians versus supply. It said 642,000 auto, diesel and collision technicians will be needed between 2020 and 2024, with no signs of the shortage waning soon.

Applicants for the Lincoln Tech half-scholarship must have a sponsor who is a member of TMC or is employed or contracted by a company with at least one dues-paying member. They must be graduating from high school and complete an application.

Scott Shaw, Lincoln Tech president and CEO, estimated that more than 1,000 students are enrolled in the diesel and heavy equipment program. The program spans 1,550 hours with one-month blocks for brakes, transmissions and other systems and a two-month block for electrical. He said students spend about 25 hours a week over 13-14 months learning their craft. An associate degree is available, but about 90% of its graduates leave with a certification. He described the program as accelerated.

“We don’t offer spring break, winter break or a fall break,” Shaw said. “Our students are interested in getting the skills, getting in and getting out as quickly as possible.”

The cost to attend the school is $22 an hour, or $32,000. But Shaw said more employers are helping their newly employed hires repay their loans over time, using it as a retention tool. Employers are also offering signing bonuses.

Shaw said starting salaries of Lincoln Tech graduates run from about $18 to $24 an hour. One of Lincoln Tech’s board members, Carlton Rose, is a graduate of the school’s Indianapolis campus. He is now president of global fleet maintenance and engineering at UPS.

“We prepare them to start from day one providing value to the employer, giving them the confidence to progress within their profession,” he said.

The TMC scholarship is not the only way Lincoln Tech is helping students afford school. The school was founded after World War II when its founder, J. Warren Davies, saw an opportunity to provide returning veterans with training in air conditioning and automotive transmissions. In recognition of the school’s 75th anniversary, it is offering $75 million in scholarships over the next five years.

Shaw said that twice a year, the school invites employers to the campuses to critique the program, discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and talk about the industry’s direction.

He said employers are emphasizing the need for students to improve their “soft” skills. Attendance is taken and appears on the students’ transcripts. The school tries to develop students’ speaking and writing skills. They also wear uniforms and are taught to work in a professional manner.

The average age of students in Lincoln Tech’s diesel program is around 24, which is younger than other courses of study. It’s a diverse student body in which about 40% of students are white and 10-15% are former military members. The program also serves adult students who have been working in fast food and retail and have realized they need to earn a higher salary, or they are returning to a long-desired passion. Fewer than 5% of the students in the auto/diesel program are women.

Changing Environment

Shaw said that decades ago, the emphasis on getting students into college resulted in cuts to vocational-technical high school classes. Now people are recognizing the opportunities available in these fields. The infrastructure bill being debated in Congress as of press time would result in the need for even more technically trained professionals.

Shaw said the school hasn’t really changed its training to include more instruction in repairing electric vehicles, but it will do so as the marketplace demands it, noting that three of the five technicians at the local Tesla dealership are Lincoln Tech grads.

Chuck Elwer, the school’s head of agriculture/diesel — and former student — has been at the school for 25 years. About 90% of the school’s graduates earn an associate degree, which requires some general education classes. The diesel program takes a little more than two years. The cost of tuition to earn an associate degree in diesel technology is $31,400.