When J-Tech Institute started the new school year this fall, the students of the Jacksonville, Florida, trade school’s diesel technology program were doing more than learning the technical skills that could lead to a successful career. They also were becoming part of the solution to a pressing issue in the construction industry: the shortage of technicians to service and maintain fleets.
That’s an issue Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) and its dealer network have identified as a top priority. So, as J-Tech expands its students’ knowledge of off-road equipment hydraulics, Volvo CE and Livonia, Michigan-based Alta Equipment Co., which has a location in Jacksonville and is a Volvo CE dealer, have stepped up their involvement with the school, providing training material and sponsorships.
For Volvo CE, it’s part of a multi-pronged initiative to address the skilled labor shortage that includes the construction of a new training center at its North American headquarters in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and the opening of a San Francisco Bay Area training center as a hub for electric vehicle training.
“We’ve made it a priority to support technician and operator training in order to help our customers improve their uptime and help the industry add the skilled labor that’s critical to everyone’s success,” Volvo CE North America Region President Stephen Roy says. “We’re doing that with the development of our own training facilities and also through partnerships with our dealers and trade schools like J-Tech Institute.”
Because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be an average of 28,500 openings for diesel technicians and mechanics each year for the next decade, action is needed now.
Training the next generation
J-Tech Institute has a variety of trade programs. Approximately 80 students graduate each year with an associate degree in diesel technology after receiving training in off-road, on-road, marine and recreational diesel equipment.
“The service we provide customers is just as important as the equipment we sell,” Alta Equipment Director of Training and Technical Support Mary Padron says. “Alta is proud to support J-Tech, and the school has given just as much to us with the well-trained diesel technicians we’ve hired. Beyond their technical skills, the culture of the school shows up in their attitudes and behaviors.”
For construction equipment, engines and drivetrains are major focuses. Hydraulics is another focus in which students learn how to fabricate hydraulic hoses, pressure-test hydraulic systems and more.
Volvo CE and Alta have sponsored a new hydraulic training lab at J-Tech and have given training materials to the school. Volvo CE also has provided hydraulic components for use as training aids.
“J-Tech gave me the knowledge and skills needed to be successful and thrive while working on Volvo equipment at Alta,” J-Tech grad and current Alta employee Tiffany Roberts says.
Alta has hired eight J-Tech graduates, sponsored school sign-up days with potential students and their parents, participated in career fairs and made presentations to students.
“We’ve known Volvo to be a forward-thinking manufacturer of quality equipment,” said Gregory H. Jones, president of J-Tech Institute. “Also, given her unique background of working with Volvo Trucks Academy and now Alta Equipment Company, Mary Padron was and remains the catalyst to increasing student interest in the world of construction equipment.”