Baleigh Pope will receive her Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Technology in December 2021. It wasn’t a degree pathway or career that was on her radar when she was a high school student. A family member suggested a career pathway as a mechanic because Pope likes problem-solving and working with her hands.
“I wanted something that would be a steady career and that would always be around. I really liked math and putting stuff together and my aunt asked me, why not be a mechanic?” Pope had considered taking her life in that direction in high school, but her parents cautioned her that she might not be successful in that line of work, which is typically a male-dominated industry.
Yet, Pope spoke to a woman who graduated from TMCC’s Diesel Program, and who encouraged her to give it a try. “She told me that the program was so amazing and that the teachers are really helpful, so I started taking both automotive and diesel classes because I was going to get both degrees,” Pope said.
After her first semester, however, Pope discovered that she had a true passion for working with diesel engines. “I started taking classes exclusively in the diesel program after my first semester and I just love it,” she said. “I’m graduating in December, and I know that I am going to miss the program so much. [This program is] like family.”
For students like Pope who like working with their hands, TMCC’s Diesel Program offers relevant hands-on training in a career field that’s in high demand in Northern Nevada. According to data from the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), the need for diesel mechanics in our community is on the rise and is projected to grow by at least 8% over the next five years.
Aaron West, CEO of Nevada Builders Alliance who oversees over 1,000 contractors across the state, has seen the increase in demand firsthand not only in the diesel industry itself, but also in construction and logistics, among several others. “We’re seeing tremendous growth from logistics and distribution, from manufacturing—which then requires logistics and distribution—[as well as] mining, construction...all of that. All these industries require either diesel equipment and vehicles as a part of their fleet in order to really get those jobs done,” said West. “We need people who can work on this equipment.”
Interested in learning more? On Sept. 23 from 8 a.m.–3 p.m., TMCC and Cashman are hosting a recruitment event where you can learn more about local employment opportunities in this exciting field, as well as training opportunities that include à la carte classes that can lead to stackable certificates and a two-year degree.
Why Diesel? Why Now?
Cashman Equipment is partnering with TMCC’s Diesel Program to host a live recruitment event, which will also feature tours of the TMCC Applied Technologies building on Edison Way. In addition to featuring professionals from Cashman’s who are looking to hire diesel mechanics, the event will also feature the latest green technology in the industry, as well as a mini-excavator, TMCC swag, and light refreshments.
Attendees can expect to learn more about employment opportunities with Cashman, which include positions that handle engine repairs, transmissions, hydraulics, fabrication, and fluid analysis. The event is open to members of the public who are interested in learning more about the career or the training required to get into this line of work.
“The fact that TMCC’s program has been so successful and continues to grow is that the demand for these kinds of skilled workers is so high at this particular moment. And so, if you go through TMCC’s program, there are multiple jobs waiting for you immediately with amazing pay,” said West, who encourages students who like problem-solving and working with their hands to give this career a try.
“Some students are a little resistant to going into a construction job because they’re going to be outside in the heat or the cold. But, most diesel mechanics are working in a shop where there is climate control, and so that’s a pretty comfortable working environment. Plus, it’s a rewarding career because you are constantly diagnosing problems and coming up with solutions,” he said.
The Diesel Program has recently restructured its course offerings to align with industry demands. This was something that drew Pope to the program in the first place, and as she looks back on her experience over the past two years, her favorite class was one that focused on engines.
“They go into great detail and are very specific about what you have to do to torque the head down and the injectors,” she explained. “I get to take my time on those kinds of tasks, which helps me to learn how these engines work.” Learning the specifics will help Pope to obtain one of her professional goals: to be certified in Cummins engines.
Although she has nothing but positive things to say about the program, it’s not all smooth sailing; hydraulics and electrical systems have offered her distinct challenges—especially given that she took a class focused on that subject when TMCC pivoted to remote learning in Spring 2020.
However, a five-week class focused on those topics will be her final course before she is awarded her associate degree in December. While she hasn’t settled on a distinct career path, she is considering several options that include working in management, providing roadside assistance and/or teaching diesel mechanics to students just like her. No matter her final decision, though, one thing is for sure: for graduates of the diesel program like Pope, there are a line of high-paying jobs waiting to be filled.
Breaking Down Barriers
The changing landscape of construction, mining, logistics and other industries that rely on diesel engines to get the job done is also changing the demographic of its workforce. “It’s a different dynamic now because of technology,” said West. “Even though this is a job where you’re working with your hands, you don’t have to be some big, brawny person to get the job done. Whether it’s a construction job site or a diesel shop, we have the tools and systems in place where you don’t have to be [that stereotypical construction worker] anymore. It’s more about using your head and being efficient with your skill set. We absolutely need more women.”
West notes that he’s witnessed a growing number of women in these industries and that their contributions are leading to beneficial changes. “We’re finding that as more women move into these fields, they are establishing new expectations for how jobs can be done that are detail-oriented, thoughtful and precise.”
Although it can be daunting to enter an industry traditionally dominated by men, the training Pope has received in the Diesel Program has prepared her for the technical challenges that lie ahead of her. After all, the efficient and accurate mechanic will get the job done, regardless of their gender.
“If you’re a girl...you can pursue this career. If you absolutely love it, just pursue it and then you’ll find a good place to work. Find the people who you like working with and then stick with them,” Pope said.
The event on Sept. 23 offers students like Pope an opportunity to do exactly that.
For more information about the Diesel Program at TMCC, contact the Applied Technologies department at 775-856-5300.