Diesel Service shows off its toys, exciting area middle and high schoolers

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Bobcat steer piloted by student.

Student tries his hand at the Bobcat steer.

Hundreds of local students recently got a crash course on the latest in diesel service technology.

Portland Community College’s Diesel Service Technology Program is igniting interest with middle and high school students for careers in the truck service industry. At the program’s annual Diesel Day at the expansive Rock Creek Campus shop on May 3, local companies were on hand to demo and show off the newest, high-tech equipment and heavy-duty trucks. Reps also led informative career workshops for the estimated 475 students who attended.

“It’s a very special event,” said Russ Dunnington, who chairs the program. “Kids need to know it’s a viable field and that they can make a lot of money and have a great career. So, having industry representatives tell the students directly, rather than from their teachers, is important because they hear it from the horse’s mouth.”

PCC student shows high schoolers an electrical board.

A workshop on diesel electronics.

Meanwhile, students were able to network with PCC Diesel Service students and industry representatives who attested to the importance of the college’s training program and the great jobs that await after graduation.

“We work very closely with industry,” Dunnington said. “They are always on campus meeting with our students and interviewing them. That relationship can’t be beat. Plus, there’s a million dollars worth of donated equipment parked in our shop. Industry wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t want our students.”

The careers available to students at PCC are numerous and varied. Dunnington said they can go into management, work as diesel, marine or auto technicians, or as techs in electric power generation, to name a few career options. Growth in the field of electric power generation speaks to the rising importance of data hubs by the likes of Amazon and other technology companies that have a huge thirst for backup power because they can’t risk being off line at any time.

Forest Grove native Jason Blalock was one of the industry recruiters at Diesel Day, showing off his company’s high-tech trucks. Blalock works as a service manager for Peterson Trucks International, within its Idealease trucks division.

At Forest Grove High School, he worked after school in his family’s automotive repair and recycling business, catching the trucking bug. Blalock eventually graduated from PCC’s Diesel Service Technology Program in 2009.

He said finding young and skilled talent for his company is critical because of the lack of qualified technicians currently available. Companies are fighting each other to engage any prospective employee to hire or develop. This includes searching the local schools for students who have an interest in diesel service.

Human foosball with the students.

Along with learning, there was fun at Diesel Day.

“Trucks are advancing so fast right now because so much technology goes into the on-highway and off-highway applications,” he said. “I tell people all the time it’s a lot like being an engineer, electrician and a chemist, all rolled up into one. There are so many chemical reactions going on with the exhaust stream management — it’s a lot more technical than people realize.”

If students are interested in diesel service, he tells them that PCC is the right fit for them. After high school, Blalock had looked at other automotive technology schools, before realizing PCC had what he needed.

“I knew I wanted to work with my hands and naturally migrated to the truck field,” Blalock recalled. “All through my childhood there are photos of me with a wrench in my hand, and I’m covered in grease. I never actually considered doing anything else.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »

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