Wake Tech programs help train, re-train workforce for technical jobs

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The shortage of automotive technicians is so great that John Deer is offering reimbursements for tuition and books. The deal is contingent on the student, after graduating, works for the dealership who sponsored them.

“There’s always places looking to hire new mechanics,” said first-year Wake Tech student Brian Watts. “It’s an industry that is continuously growing and there’s always a demand.”

“Most students are being pushed toward four-year universities, and the trade industry has been pushed backwards a little bit,” added Heavy Equipment Transport Technology Program Director Paige Kearns. “A lot of those programs have been taken out, like automotive.”

More students are going to community colleges to learn a trade — so many of them that Wake Tech is having to build more buildings for classrooms.

“There’s not many technicians that can do the things that we do just because they don’t have the knowledge to work on the same electronics stuff that we can,” said Chad Simpson. He drives an hour each way from rural Moore County.

Simpson looks forward to finishing the two-year program and immediately starting work.

On the other end of the spectrum from students is the older population of people who want to get back to work.

“I worked for Verizon. I retired after 35 years (of) service,” said Jannie Shaw. “I started when I was 16 and I retired when I was 51.”

Now, at 68, to help pay medicals bills and make ends meet, Shaw is taking computer classes to get back in the workforce.

“I’ve taken one four-week class. Now I’m taking a six-week class, so we’re getting there,” Shaw said.

For some, “getting there” includes autonomous tractors like the one used for Wake Tech’s Heavy Equipment Transport Technology Program.

“Basically, they’re coming out as a certified John Deer technician. They can go anywhere within the country or anywhere within the world,” Kearns said.

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