Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

PCC celebrates opening of new Caterpillar training facility

Story by Alfredo V. Moreno. Photos by Wendy Wright. Video by James Hill.

Dr. Adrien Bennings’ first official public ceremony as president of Portland Community College was a memorable one.

Last week, Dr. Bennings led the celebration of the Dealer Service Technology Building ribbon-cutting at the Rock Creek Campus in Washington County. Funded by the 2017 bond, the 16,000-square-foot facility houses the ThinkBIG Program, a unique partnership between PCC and participating Caterpillar Inc. dealerships throughout the Northwest. It trains Caterpillar service technicians to maintain the company’s agriculture, construction, earthmoving and electric power generation equipment used around the world. 

From left, Michael Sonnleitner (PCC board), Sander Torgeson (faculty), Mace Gjerman (Caterpillar), Bobby Vellum (ThinkBIG program manager), Dan Brotherton (PCC alum), Jesse Norconk (ThinkBIG faculty chair), Kevin Comstock (faculty), Karen Sanders (dean), PCC President Dr. Adrien Bennings, Kristi Wilson (PCC board) and Laurie Cremona Wagner (PCC board vice chair).

From left, Michael Sonnleitner (PCC board), Sander Torgeson (faculty), Mace Gjerman (Caterpillar), Bobby Vellum (ThinkBIG program manager), Dan Brotherton (PCC alum), Jesse Norconk (ThinkBIG faculty chair), Kevin Comstock (faculty), Karen Sanders (dean), PCC President Dr. Adrien Bennings, Kristi Wilson (PCC board) and Laurie Cremona Wagner (PCC board vice chair).

The new building doubles the amount of space previously available for ThinkBIG on campus, allowing the college to improve the delivery and deepen the offerings of this specialized training program. The facility’s design and construction, carried out by PCC’s Office of Planning & Capital Construction, supports the college’s commitment to advance business and industry, as well as workforce equity.

“Students, faculty, business partners and the region’s workforce will be positively impacted by this marvelous new facility for many years to come,” said Dr. Bennings. “ThinkBIG is a stellar example of what community colleges and business partners, companies like Caterpillar, can do together.”

PCC is one of 10 colleges in the United States with a ThinkBIG Program, graduating 182 technicians since the program debuted in Oregon in 2006. With the construction of this new facility, it has now become just the second ThinkBIG electric power generation technician training school in the country and the only such program in the West. 

Mace Gjerman, a training manager from the Peterson Cat dealership in Hillsboro, said this program blends classroom and hands-on experience. It condenses what would take most entry-level employees five to seven years to learn into less than two years of training. 

“ThinkBIG is absolutely critical for developing technicians for Caterpillar dealers,” Gjerman said. “While you’re learning, you’re earning and immediately putting what you’ve learned into practice to have high-paying, high-benefits, high-opportunity careers at Caterpillar dealers around the world.”  

The Dealer Service Technology Program is part of PCC’s Construction, Manufacturing Tech, and Transportation Academic Pathway. Interested students who like to work with their hands and enjoy constructing, repairing, and maintaining buildings, systems, and technology apply for classes and programs within this pathway. For more details, visit https://www.pcc.edu/programs/#/construction/

Local Media Coverage

KGW: New building at PCC’s Rock Creek campus helping students learn how to use heavy machinery.

OPB: Portland Community College, Caterpillar hope new training facility will help address enrollment, workforce challenges.

Bend Bulletin: New Caterpillar training center opens at community college.

Beaverton Valley Times: New Caterpillar career center opens at PCC Rock Creek.

Photo Gallery
Rock Creek DTSBFrom left, Michael Sonnleitner (PCC board), Sander Torgeson (faculty), Mace Gjerman (Caterpillar), Bobby Vellum (ThinkBIG program manager), Dan Brotherton (PCC alum), Jesse Norconk (ThinkBIG faculty chair), Kevin Comstock (faculty), Karen Sanders (dean), PCC President Dr. Adrien Bennings, Kristi Wilson (PCC board) and Laurie Cremona Wagner (PCC board vice chair).