This content was published: November 27, 2006. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Rock Creek students think big

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Caterpillar dealers, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, PCC officials and hundreds of guests gathered at a recent ceremony to celebrate the inaugural student class of the PCC Caterpillar Dealer Service Technology program (ThinkBIG) at the PCC Rock Creek Campus. At the ceremony, the students were given new laptop computers and duffel bags, all brought in on a new Caterpillar earth-mover.

"This program will give them the tools they need to succeed," said Katherine Persson, Rock Creek Campus president. "We’re fortunate to have a partner like Caterpillar."

The Caterpillar dealers have recruited 25 qualified applicants for the new ThinkBIG program. For accepted students, two years of college will combine academic and technical education with real world experience through paid on-the-job internships in participating dealers’ service facilities.

The Caterpillar dealers donated $150,000 for a startup fund to pay for tools and equipment and $3,000 per new student for faculty development. Dealers include Halton Co. in Portland, which has had a long-time connection to the PCC Diesel Technology program; Peterson Machinery Co. (Eugene); NC Machinery (Seattle Wash.); Tractor and Equipment (Billings, Mont.); and Western States Equipment Company (Boise, Idaho).

"You are getting a world class education," said Sam Adams to the students. "You are doing it in a way that will give you the skills that will enable you to find a job with benefits and opportunity."

The PCC classes will provide them with a well-rounded knowledge of Caterpillar equipment and its high-tech systems. Each college term is followed by an internship term with a Caterpillar dealer, where they will be making money while practicing their newly learned skills. Part of the arrangement calls for contributions to the PCC Foundation each year from Caterpillar.

"I think this is a fantastic example of how PCC can better meet the needs of the greater community by partnering with businesses like Caterpillar," said Stuart Savin, dean of PCC’s Math and Manufacturing Division. "It’s also a great example of the confidence Caterpillar has in PCC to provide them with potential future employees."

This partnership will give the Dealer Service Technology program at Rock Creek the opportunity to train students from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho as Caterpillar technicians.


PCC is the first college in the Northwest to host the company’s ThinkBIG program. According to Caterpillar, results indicate that graduates from these two-year programs are performing at a level equivalent to what has taken six to seven years to accomplish through general programs and on-the-job experience. In May, ThinkBIG graduated 780 technicians nationwide and next year they plan to graduate 300 more.

ThinkBIG is designed for adaptation by company dealers and colleges throughout the world. With the addition of PCC, the Caterpillar ThinkBIG network consists of 14 colleges; 10 in the United States, and one each in Canada, Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »