BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A local community college aims to help diesel repair shops fill an estimated 7,000 job openings in Louisiana.
Industry leaders said they are struggling to find qualified technicians. As a result, they are losing money.
In Port Allen, mechanics at Kenworth of South Louisiana are hard at work making critical repairs to big rigs that carry a lot of the cargo giant retail stores count on every day. Jude Becnel, Vice President of Operations in Louisiana, said the jobs are backing up.
"Trying to get people from out of town to move here has been difficult," Becnel said.
Maintenance Manager at Republic Services Jonathan McLain shares his frustration.
"We've gone as far as Nashville, a diesel college up there, Texas, New Orleans, anywhere we can to recruit people," McClain said.
They said the problem is because the technicians they hire are from out of town they typically do not stay long. That leaves them short on mechanics and business.
Seeing the problem would only get worse, industry leaders reached out to Baton Rouge Community College for help. BRCC responded with a six-month curriculum that aims to train diesel technicians and put them to work immediately.
"The program is designed to work with a green helper in the shop," explained Executive Director of Workforce Solutions Girard Melancon, PhD. "They may change brakes, do oil changes. They understand the basics of heavy equipment or a truck, but they don't understand how to trouble shoot or the detailed workings of a diesel engine."
McLain has agreed to teach the class, which he said will include hands-on training and building on the basics in an actual shop.
"We figure if we can get people from in state right here, we train them and they stay, we've got enough industry to keep them working," McLain said.
Becnel said the mechanics will not only be working on truck engines, but that the work expands far beyond the 18-wheelers in his shop.
"You've got construction companies, chemical plants that have generators. Everybody who has a diesel engine is going to need a tech at some time," Becnel said.
McLain said diesel mechanics can expect to start out making $14.00 an hour right out of school.
Classes begin on August 24 and will be held at BRCC Port Allen on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. For more information or to register, visit BRCC's website.