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Dealerships partner with community colleges to train technicians

Equipment dealers like Prairie State Tractor have learned to recruit and train technicians by working with colleges, providing mentorship and paid internships.

Sierra Day, Field editor

April 19, 2022

2 Min Read
technician working on farm equipment
HANDS-ON TRAINING: Chris Rupiper, Prairie State Tractor CEO, says many equipment dealers continue to face the challenge of finding talented technicians. That’s why colleges and dealerships partner to provide classroom training, mentorship and hands-on learning for future service technicians while they’re still in school. Sierra Day

Around the country, you can find community colleges with diesel or agriculture mechanics programs that partner with farm equipment dealers to prepare students for a career as a service technician beyond classroom and on-campus training. In Illinois, there’s the John Deere tech program at Lake Land College and the Case New Holland program at Parkland College, just to name a few.

The drive for these program partnerships is based on industry demand.

“All dealers in our industry are facing the same challenge of finding talented technicians,” says Chris Rupiper, CEO of Prairie State Tractor, a chain of John Deere dealerships in northern Illinois. Rupiper says equipment and technology continue to change and advance, but the need for people to service and maintain the equipment is constant.

Like many other dealerships, Prairie State Tractor has launched a tech student program with local community colleges as another chance to attract students and help prepare them for a career as a technician, Rupiper says.

Students in the program will receive the following:

  • associate degree in applied science

  • paid internship with a dealer during school breaks

  • up to $12,000 in tuition reimbursement

  • over $7,000 in John Deere tools and a toolbox

  • classroom training

  • hands-on experience with a mentor

  • free work uniforms

  • full-time employment opportunity with the dealership after graduation

College partnership

While this tech student program doesn’t tie students to a specific college, there are preferences and guidelines to school selection.

Prairie State Tractor prefers students attend John Deere tech schools like Lake Land College or Northeast Iowa Community College. These colleges allow students to engage in John Deere exclusive classroom training courses. Lake Land and Northeast Iowa are the nearest John Deere tech schools to Prairie State Tractor dealerships, but any John Deere tech schools are eligible for the program.

When students attend John Deere tech schools like Lake Land or Northeast Iowa, they are eligible to receive up to $12,000 in tuition reimbursement. Students can receive up to $10,000 in tuition reimbursement if they choose to attend colleges with a diesel mechanic or ag mechanics program such as Illinois Central College, Black Hawk College or Parkland College.

Prairie State Tractor scholarship

Prairie State Tractor offers scholarships for future service technicians, awarding $13,000 to high school seniors or current college students.

Who’s eligible for this scholarship? Here are the details:

  • The applicant must be a graduating high school senior or current college student.

  • The applicant must plan to enroll or already be enrolled in diesel technology, agriculture mechanics or a related program with the intent to become a service technician.

  • Students already in the Prairie State Tractor tech student program are eligible to apply.

Online applications are due May 15 and must contain the following materials:

  • two letters of reference

  • most current official transcript

  • 500- to 700-word essay or three- to four-minute video that explains why you are an ideal candidate for this scholarship — upload your video and send the link to [email protected]

For more information and to apply before May 15, visit the Prairie State Tractor website.

About the Author(s)

Sierra Day

Field editor, Farm Progress

A 10th-generation agriculturist, Sierra Day grew up alongside the Angus cattle, corn and soybeans on her family’s operation in Cerro Gordo, Ill. Although she spent an equal amount in farm machinery as she did in the cattle barn as a child, Day developed a bigger passion for the cattle side of the things.

An active member of organizations such as 4-H, FFA and the National Junior Angus Association, she was able to show Angus cattle on the local, state and national levels while participating in contests and leadership opportunities that were presented through these programs.

As Day got older, she began to understand the importance of transitioning from a member to a mentor for other youth in the industry. Thus, her professional and career focus is centered around educating agriculture producers and youth to aid in prospering the agriculture industry.

In 2018, she received her associate degree from Lake Land College, where her time was spent as an active member in clubs such as Ag Transfer club and PAS. A December 2020 graduate of Kansas State University in Animal Sciences & Industry and Agricultural Communications & Journalism, Day was active in Block & Bridle and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, while also serving as a communications student worker in the animal science department.

Day currently resides back home where she owns and operates Day Cattle Farm with her younger brother, Chayton. The duo strives to raise functional cattle that are show ring quality and a solid foundation for building anyone’s herd.

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