BEEBE - The Diesel Technology Program at Arkansas State University (ASU) Beebe on the Searcy campus, together with industry partners are graduating career-ready, highly trained mechanics that are in demand all across Arkansas. Through the help of an Office of Skills Development (OSD) skills gap grant and professional associations with trucking industry leaders like Stallion Transportation Group, the program has updated their facility to offer the latest technology and equipment to provide real-world application of learning.
Jake Selvidge, ASU Diesel Technology Instructor, explains how the school made the most of the opportunity to create a well-rounded ten-month program. “We have revamped the program in the last two years, focusing on over-the-road trucks. We are bringing in new technology relative to what students will be seeing out in the field today like electronic engines and computer diagnostics. With the training simulators, students can learn and practice what they are going to do before they work on a truck.”
Students are reaping the benefits of modernization and the new opportunities for hands-on application. Students like 29-year-old Chris Stephens need to know they can transition into a career right out of school. “I want to do something with my life that I really want to do. I have three children to take care of, so I need a good job. I graduate in May and would like to get a job with one of the larger trucking companies.”
Stallion may be such a company. As a partner with ASU’s Diesel Program they offer professional insight into industry trends and new technology. “Business partners, like Stallion, are our driving force,” said Selvidge. “We need to hear from industry leaders, so we know what to teach. If they tell us there is new technology coming out, then we need to incorporate it into our program. They are the front line; they always have the newest and best equipment and can help us know when it is time to change our curriculum.”
Stallion’s President and CEO, E.W. “Butch” Rice said the company receives back as much as they invest into the program. “We believe that our partnership with the ASU Diesel Program is an investment in our community, in our kids, and the future. The program is teaching students the basics of diesel mechanics and the intangibles that go along with those skills that make great employees. We know that Stallion will be a stronger company as a result of our time and support of this program,”
Part of that support is providing students with unique hands-on opportunities. Stallion allows the students to actually work on the company’s fleet of trucks. Working on a truck that has been on the road and will go back into service after the students provide maintenance and repair increases realism for the 17 program students. “This gives us the opportunity to actually work on a real truck and not just the simulator. A simulator just doesn’t give you the opportunity to get in and out of the tight spots and work in tight spots, like a real truck does,” said Stephens.
Stallion also puts students to work outside of the program. According to Selvidge, “They have recruited a student that is currently in the program and are working around his school schedule. They are also looking to recruit more. As our partner, they come in, observe students, meet with the faculty, and have the opportunity to observe the students working. This way they have a better idea what type of employee they are getting.” And, since they have had input on the curriculum, they know what skills the students bring into their career.
As one of only two nationally accredited diesel programs in the state, the ASU Diesel Program works with many national and local business, in addition to Stallion. Their partners include national companies like Maverick Transportation, based in North Little Rock, WalMart, based in Bentonville; regional companies like Entergy; and local companies like Venture Equipment and Double Spring Grass Farm. According to Selvidge, the range of industries and the size and scope of the businesses provide a good mix of experience and professionalism that assist in providing a curriculum that reflects the current diesel industry.