Hopkinsville Community College saw a growing need locally for people trained in various areas of diesel technology and nowhere in the Christian County area that offers the education to train those individuals.

That's what prompted the college to create its own diesel technology program this year, and HCC is pushing to make the program bigger next semester.

It is designed to prepare students to become diesel service technicians by gaining the skills to analyze malfunctions and to rebuild and maintain construction equipment.

Students can also learn electronic engine diagnostic repairs using the latest electronic equipment and manufacturing software.

The program originally kicked off in August; it was only supposed to take place in Todd County, but beginning in January, it will be offered at the Hopkinsville campus.

"The program started because we have seen there is a need within the mechanical industry for diesel technician mechanics and there was no real answer to it in our area outside of going to Owensboro or Nashville," Diesel Technology Instructor and Program Coordinator Jacob Dougherty said.

HCC was able to secure a grant that allowed the college and Dougherty to start up the diesel tech program in order to meet the need to train technicians that are wanted here in Christian County.

Dougherty added that the program will also teach students basic electricity, automotive electricity, fluid power (hydraulics) and much more.

The program will award students with several certificates based on the courses they take and complete.

Those certificates include agriculture equipment mechanic helper, agriculture equipment technician, diesel engine mechanic, electrical and electronics systems mechanic, fluid power mechanic, heavy duty brake mechanic, mobile air conditioning mechanic and preventative maintenance mechanic.

"We were really hoping to put together a real well-rounded program not just for the students but for the local employers to look at for that, because they need mechanics," Daugherty said. "There's a pretty high demand in that area."

Daugherty continued to share that there are several agricultural businesses that need diesel technicians and mechanics, and he said he and HCC wanted to fill that need locally rather than having potential students go out of county or the state.

"(You've got) H and R Agri-Power, Hutson, John Deere. You have your local dealerships, and you can get on any job website and see that they're all looking for a maintenance technician or automotive or agriculture equipment repair," Daugherty said.

"Those job searches are continuously going on, because it's a retiring field, but there's no real pipeline coming back in to replenish it."

With that in mind, HCC looked at that need and wanted to create a program to replenish the need locally and not require people interested in the field to have to travel to get the training and education they would need.

The first semester of the program has gone better than Daugherty first expected, he shared, with students learning quicker than he thought they would.

"It's turned out really well, and my students are very eager and have sped along faster than I thought they would," he said. "My expectations weren't low, but I never thought they would exceed them by tenfold. It's crazy to have a role like this with students that want to do this."

The classes are relatively small, which is something HCC has always offered in order to provide more hands-on, one-one-one teaching and learning experiences.

Next semester, however, with offering the program at the Hopkinsville campus, HCC is looking to build on the program, making it bigger and better.

The college is bringing in more equipment and technology to give students a hands-on learning experience right away on the equipment they would be potentially working on their field.

"We're looking forward to an even bigger semester next semester and (to) keep the enrollment going and increasing and hopefully devising a pipeline for not just local companies, but for regional companies as well," Dougherty said.

If you would like to know more about the program or apply to the program, you can visit the HCC website on the diesel tech program at hopkinsville.kctcs.edu/education-training/program-finder/diesel-technology.aspx.

You can also email Dougherty at jdougherty0006@kctcs.edu.

Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or aseeger@kentuckynewera.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra.

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