Technician Program Looks to Train Workers to Fill Need

Technician School 042820

Two million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2025 because so many of those workers are retiring. That’s why ag machinery companies need young technicians. Before the coronavirus hit, many students were going to school at a Case-New Holland Technician Development Program.  

Forget the typical toying and tinkering around the shop. These students are going through serious training. They are all working and studying to become future technicians.  

Here in Champaign, Ill., they’re earning a two-year associate degree through a college but in a unique way. It’s called the Case New Holland Technician Development Program. Students receive classroom training. Here, they're working with Case IH's equipment in a shop.  

“It’s cool that we get new and old equipment from Case IH, so we can work on exactly what we’d be working on at the dealership,” says student Ian Overstreet.  

According to 2014 data from Accenture and the Manufacturing Institute, 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions.    

“[That means] 80 percent of those workers are retiring, but we need to be able to backfill those with trained, up-to-date, young individuals,” says Gordon Hedrick, the director of technician program at Parkland College.   

New data shows the number of employers investing in training and developing existing employees to fill open positions has doubled from 20 percent to more than 50 percent. It’s one reason Case IH helped develop this program.  

“Every dealership I talk to [says] if they could hire another technician tomorrow, they would,” says Kevin Breneman, director of field service for Case IH North America. “We recognize that [and think how] we need to start doing as much recruiting and driving awareness as possible.” 

They're looking for students with ag experience and non-farming backgrounds too. 

“I’ve always worked on a farm in the past, too,” says student Dylan Janssen. “We’ve done our own mechanics on older, International tractors.”   

“I grew up working on lawnmowers and other small things,” says student Justin Atkinson. “I really didn't want to sit in an office." 

“There aren't as many young folks coming from a farm background anymore,” says Breneman. “At Case IH, that’s one of the things we’ve recognized [how] we need to raise awareness of our industry. It's not just simple mechanics. There's more technology related to it." 

When technicians are done with the program, the goal is that they end up at a dealership.  

One dealership is Birkey's Farm Store in Urbana where some graduates work today.  

“When I went through the program, I had background knowledge of farming,” says technician Clayton Kuhring. “It definitely taught me more things, more of the technological side of it and more advanced practices.  

“We have a recruiter who spends a lot of time over here with the students,” says Mike Hedge, president and CEO of Birkey's Farm Store Inc., with multiple locations throughout Illinois and Indiana. “We place students with internships, we sponsor them through our dealerships.” 

As students learn in this "classroom" they prepare for the real thing and an industry that needs their skills to keep the farm rolling.