CALAIS _ Garage or basement tinkering just got a lot more interesting with the introduction of a new one-year program at the Washington County Community College that could lead to good jobs.
The program called “Powersport Equipment/Small Engine Technician” begins this fall and was created to train students for entry-level outdoor power propulsion and small-engine technician jobs through a combination of theory and hands-on experience. The program prepares students to maintain and repair a variety of outdoor equipment.
So if you are interested, you’d better hurry and sign up. Enrollment to date has been brisk because there is no other program like this at the post-secondary level in Maine.
“Individuals who are interested should apply as soon as possible,” said Susan Mingo, dean of enrollment and students services. “We have just launched this program and we already have half of the applicants we need. Program capacity is limited to 18 students.”
WCCC Mechanical Department Chair, Ron O’Brien said the curriculum will cover everything from small engines used in things like lawnmowers to the more intricate engines used in snowmobiles and other equipment. There also will be a section on repairing equipment used in the construction industry such as compactors. “There is a huge demand for this course,” O’Brien said. “A lot of dealers are looking to us to help train future employees.”
WCCC designed the program to meet national Equipment and Engine Training Council standards. “We are using their guidelines,” he said. “That way we know we are training our students to national standards. Once they get into a dealership such as Arctic Cat or Kabota, they will have a solid foundation and those companies can then train them for their specific needs.”
Currently a one-year certificate program, students who wish can turn it into a two-year associate’s degree.
“It fits nicely with our pre-established mechanical technology cluster so students can ultimately get an associate’s degree,” Mingo said. “There are a couple of pathways including our mechanical-technology associate degree that includes automotive engines, or if they want to open their own business, they can register for their second year in our entrepreneurship program.”
Trained technicians are needed because on-the-job training is fast becoming a thing of the past, especially given the sophistication now found in electronic components, O’Brien said. The days of taking small engines apart and tinkering with them no longer leads to a job in a dealership or a repair shop. “It is important a student establishes a solid baseline. If they have proper instruction with industry standard equipment instead of just plug and guess they will have a solid foundation of theory and application and be able to apply that in the job market,” he added.
O’Brien said that before WCCC designed the course curriculum, he and others spoke with industry leaders to find out what skills future employees would need to be hired. He said companies told him they were looking for trained workers. “They said if we bring them to the college and give them a solid foundation then when they send them off for additional training in specific engine designs related to their business product line they know that an employee will come back that much better trained,” he said.
Jobs are available.
“Statistics show that by 2018, there will be a 21 percent increase in this field just in the state of Maine which is greater than the national average,” Mingo said.
If you are interested all you need to do is apply online at www.wccc.me.edu or stop by the college and pick up an application packet. Financial aid is available for eligible students.