Bismarck Tribune: Automotive, heavy equipment companies recruiting students

By Jessica Holdman

Automotive and heavy equipment dealerships are expanding recruitment efforts in the state, paying high school students’ way through college to help guarantee a workforce.

“It’s crazy right now, the demand for diesel,” said Ann Pollert, technician and career developer for General Equipment & Supplies Inc. The company has offices in four North Dakota cities.

Pollert met with Colin Johnson and Robert Strand, a sophomore and junior from Hazen High School, during the North Dakota Automobile and Implement Dealership Job Fair at the Bismarck Public Schools Career Academy on Tuesday. The two are considering careers in the automotive industry.

“It’s kind of nice when you have a bunch (of companies) who want workers instead of just a few,” Strand said.

Pollert was hired by General Equipment in September to meet with high school students, grades 9-12, because the company realized it needed a person focused on recruitment full time.

The company will pay 70 to 90 percent of student loans upon their graduation, Pollert said. It asks for a three-year commitment from the graduates. While they’re in school, students in the company’s Diesel Tech Program work at one of four locations during the summer and on breaks.

Nine students are enrolled for fall 2014. Pollert said the company hopes to eventually have 18 in the program at a time. Salaries for the program graduates are about $45,000 to $55,000 and they’re coming out of school with little debt and a guaranteed job.

General Equipment employs about 50 diesel technicians in the state. Pollert said demand keeps increasing and the company keeps growing.

Jenna Harpole, career development manager for the North Dakota Implement Dealers Association and Automobile Dealers Association of North Dakota, said there are hundreds of openings at dealerships across the state. The associations have started a push to build the candidate base.

Tuesday was the associations’ first job fair. The associations’ career development segment, which Harpole is part of, was created because of the need for worker recruitment in the industry.

“There’s a large number of applicants needed and they’re simply not there,” she said.

RDO Equipment has about 200 open positions companywide, both in and out of the state. A third of those are diesel technicians.

The company is tapping high school students to enroll in its internship program, Access Your Future. The program offers paid internships between the students’ first and second years of college. For college graduates, the company has apprenticeships to get them into their first service job or a trainee program for those in sales.

Recruiting Specialist Leslie Olson said the program increased from 60 students in 2012 to 84 in 2013. The company has added programs for those interested in parts and sales in addition to its service program.

Both programs come with educational reimbursements between $3,000 for a certification and up to $12,000 for participation in a John Deere Program at a technical school like North Dakota State College of Science. Those in sales get a sign-on bonus.

“The ideal situation is to get someone in high school to work part time while they’re in school,” said Tom Wolbaum of Bismarck Motor Co.

Wolbaum has a high school student who works in the dealership’s quick lube and plans to start automotive classes at Bismarck State College. In addition to paid internships during college, Bismarck Motor Co. will offer him up to $6,000 of tuition reimbursement if he comes to work for them after graduation.

“You have to be aggressive,” said Darrel Bosch of Kupper Chevrolet. “It’s tough to find technicians nowadays.”

Full article from the Bismarck Tribune

Department: Diesel Technology

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