INA - The Fabick Heavy Equipment Technology program at Rend Lake College offers great career opportunities to students fresh out of high school and individuals looking for a fresh start. Jason Burke and Jeff Scrivner are two examples.
Scrivner, 34, of Mt. Vernon, enrolled in the brand new program at RLC after a terrifying semi-accident, nearly a year ago, ended his career as an over-the-road truck driver with Schneider Trucking.
He was pulling an empty trailer in the northbound lane on Interstate 57 when a wind shear struck his semi-tractor trailer on Sept. 16, near Champaign. The blast of wind flipped the semi and left Scrivner hanging by his seatbelt with a wounded shoulder and a head injury.
The injury to his head caused permanent damage to the optical nerve in his right eye and a 15 to 20 percent loss of vision. Things have never been the same since the accident, he said.
With no previous college experience and jobless after a decade as a truck driver, Scrivner enrolled in the Fabick Heavy Equipment Technology (HEQT) program at RLC. He said he was attracted to the good opportunity for job placement, the pay and benefits earned by qualified technicians and the fact that it is a two-year program.
Through the partnership of RLC and Fabick Caterpillar, the program trains individuals to work at the corporation’s dealerships. Students are trained on a variety of equipment, from many different manufacturers.
It is a two-year program (71 hours) leading to an Associate in Applied Science Degree. The program is designed to prepare students for occupations involving the maintenance and repair of heavy duty trucks and equipment. Upon completion of the curriculum and required internships, the student should have a thorough understanding of engine and brake repair, servicing, sales and alignment. Also upon completion, the student has the option to capstone into a participating four-year institution.
In his second week at RLC, Scrivner said he is enjoying his HEQT classes, especially the hands-on lab work required in the program. It would be great if he enjoyed his English course as much, he added.
Already familiar with the basics of diesel engines, Scrivner said, “We’re getting into stuff that I’ve never dealt with. I’m excited to be learning it.”
A bonus in the program for students like Scrivner - nontraditional students with children and other responsibilities - is the three-day weekend afforded by the Monday-Thursday schedule.
“Having the weekends off is really huge for me,” he said. “I really enjoy that.”
He was surprised that the new Applied Science Center housed such advanced equipment and spacious bays used in the HEQT program.
“I didn’t know the college had this much stuff and it was this nice,” he said. “It’s really great!”
The unexpected change in Scrivner’s life is similar to what has happened to many individuals in the current workforce. While it may be a layoff, and not a career-ending accident, many people suddenly find themselves without a job, hopeless and unsure about what to do. By enrolling in the HEQT program at RLC, Scrivner is an example of how one can change the dark unknown into a bright future - a college degree.
Scrivner said he is considering heavy equipment job markets outside of Illinois - even as far as Central and South America.
“That’s one of the great things about this program,” he said. “You can either work down the street from your house, at a Fabick Caterpillar dealership or move to Alaska and do no telling what. Heavy equipment is used everywhere and mechanics are needed to work on it.”
Burke is a traditional student in the HEQT program.
A 19-year-old sophomore at RLC and resident of McLeansboro, he switched from an Agricultural Mechanics major to pursue a career as a heavy equipment technician. When asked why he chose his new discipline, Burke replied as most young men would. He did it for the money.
“The pay is better and there is a lot more opportunity to get a job,” he said. “Construction equipment is always going to have to be fixed.”
The coursework in the HEQT program is easier to Burke than the core courses he is taking, he said. Plus, those in the class with basic knowledge of diesel mechanics are helping others grasp the fundamentals, he added.
“I didn’t know much about diesels when I started, but now I’m learning a whole lot,” he said in his second week of HEQT classes. “I like heavy equipment ... I like to be around it. It’s something that I am going to enjoy.”
Although their stories are much different, their goal is the same - to graduate RLC with the skills needed for gainful employment as a heavy equipment technician.
“The ultimate course objective is for the students to get a job,” said their teacher, Joe Kloepper. “We want to prepare them for the industry so they can go straight to work after they graduate.”
For more information on the HEQT program, one can call the Applied Science Center at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1261, Kloepper at Ext. 7914 or go on-line to www.rlc.edu and follow the “Academics” link to “Applied Science.”