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Trade School Scholarships for Technicians

Learn how trade school scholarships are one way to solve the technician shortage.

Episode 225: We need to encourage more people to join the trucking industry’s heavy-duty parts and service sector. Scholarships are one way to help reach that goal.  

Our guest today is Eric Villa the Founder of the Diesel Garage Foundation.

Our guest today is Eric Villa the Founder of the Diesel Garage Foundation. In this episode, Learn how trade school scholarships is one way to solve the technician shortage.

Guest Website: DieselGarageFoundation.org

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile. We need to encourage more people to join the heavy-duty truck parts and service industry. It’s an ongoing challenge. And really when you think about the different methods of getting people into the industry, one option of course, is to promote people joining through scholarships and education . Is scholarships enough, is that something that we should be pursuing? And if so, how would we go about doing that? My guest today is Eric Villa the Founder of the Diesel Garage Foundation. Eric, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Eric Villa:

Awesome. Well, I appreciate you having me on,

Jamie Irvine:

So we’re trying to tackle this great big monstrous issue of the technician shortage. And we’re trying to look at it from different perspectives, right? There’s obviously recruitment and then there’s retention. Today, we’re gonna talk about getting people into the industry. Can you explain to our listeners what, or rather how the scholarship program that you offer works, just give us like the high-level overview and then we’ll get into the details.

Eric Villa:

Okay. Well we want to promote the diesel industry trade. Everybody’s always short diesel technicians everywhere. You’re at a hundred thousand, at least short right now, and that number’s gonna climb. So what we want do is we want to help close that gap. If we can, as much as possible, a hundred thousand people to train is a lot of money, but we want to try to take a bite out of it with the best that we can to try to make an impact. So the scholarship, what we offer is make sure you apply for a trade school that you want, that falls underneath of what we support from the welding diesel technician, machinist and a CDL school. Those are the four that we focus on and that we support. Make sure you’re accepted by that trade school because we could give them a scholarship, but if they’re not accepted to go to school, the scholarship isn’t gonna do any good. So we wanna make sure that you’re already registered at school. All your financials are in. And once you qualify there, need to make sure at the same time you’re applying at that school applied for The Diesel Garage Foundation Scholarship as well on our website. And there’s a few more requirements that we have that add onto the trade school because we just wanna make sure that we’re, we’re getting everything out there as much as we can in promoting the best way we can.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. Well, that makes sense. I mean, there’s gonna be a process for it. So who’s like an ideal student. Is it only the kids just coming out of school or does it cover a wider range than that?

Eric Villa:

No, it’s for everybody. It’s a great question you ask too. Because a lot of people have asked me like, well what about my high school kid? Or what if I’m 40 years old and I want to change careers, Hey, if you’re 40 years old and you wanna change careers and you wanna go the diesel industry, man, we’re all about it. That’s what we’re there for. If you’re in high school, you went to shop class and you’re fortunate enough to where your school still does shop class, you know, we want to help you out, apply for it, get accepted at the school. You want to go to apply for The Diesel Garage Foundation Scholarship. Then we look at that stuff there and we just want get a video from you. What we do is we just ask for a three to five minute video and a letter, kind of like an essay, tell us why you wanna do it and what this is gonna do for you and your family or whatever you’re gonna do. So obviously we want the money to stretch as far as we can, we’re completely run off of donations. So the more donations and more scholarships that we can help out, so we wanna help out.

Jamie Irvine:

Would you say that that financially it’s the only barrier to getting people into these programs? I mean, obviously if we take some of that financial burden off, it helps, but is that the only barrier or do you think sometimes people don’t even see our industry as an option and so awareness and overcoming the financial burden are kind of like two of the angles that you take to solve this problem?

Eric Villa:

Well, I think you’re right on the awareness part. Another part is if people really wanna work at that or is it just something that, oh, well, Hey, I’ll try this out. And you know, go from there. Big thing is finding the motivation and determination people that wanna really do it. I mean, you gotta be really motivated. So I think there’s a couple of factors that go into that. A big thing is the financial for the scholarships, motivation, determination to do it and trying to find the right people. I mean it’s really a special niche and it’s, I don’t think it’s necessarily that people aren’t aware of it, because they are aware of it because they go to bring their trucks in, they go to bring their cars in, even in the gas industry, but they’re shorthanded.

Eric Villa:

So to find those people that want to actually work, that’s the hard part. And that’s what I’ve been finding out with a lot of different employers that I’ve talked to about the foundation and what we’re doing and for support. And they’re like, well, this is great if we had great support, but we still need to find people that want to go do it. They have to have the want and the drive to become a diesel technician or a welder or a CDL driver. You know? So there’s a couple of barriers that are up in there, but we want to try to help motivate everybody and show and say, Hey look in 12 months time, what if you were in a place in a job, you got out of school, you got the scholarship, you got your tools, one year from now, you’re at a job making $80,000 a year to start plus benefits. How would that benefit you? Would you get them motivated by then? Would you bring the awareness to them by then? We’re hoping to do so

Jamie Irvine:

Well that that’s true. And I will say that that not every job is, you know, not every person is perfectly suited to every job, right? Some there’s a certain kind of person. And to your point, we need to find people that are gonna look at this as a career, not just a job opportunity because once we get them in the industry, then keeping them that that’s the other half of the battle, isn’t it?

Eric Villa:

Yeah, it is. Retention is a big thing, especially with everything going on, but that’s where the motivation and the drive comes from. And that’s part of the application process, that we wanna see from people is, okay, well get us a video. We wanna see your body language. We wanna read what motivation you have. Are you excited about it? You get up every day, go, this is awesome, I can’t wait to do this because it’s a life changer or are they gonna be like, oh, well, you know, I’ll try this and we’ll see what happens. And you know, maybe I’ll do this for a little while until I find something else. You know, there’s no guarantees, but we want to find the right people that are gonna be there to do the best that they can to change our lives and have the biggest impact that we can to where they can make a big impact for us as well.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break we were talking about the scholarship program that is offered by The Diesel Garage Foundation. We’re gonna learn a little bit more about that. Eric, let me ask you something from your perspective, what is some of the real big reasons we’ve struggled to attract enough people to the industry? You talk about a hundred thousand open positions right now for technicians, last number I heard there was like 80,000 open positions for drivers. I know on the parts side, there’s lots and lots of demand for people. What’s going on here because for those of us that work in the industry, we know how great of an industry it is. Why are we struggling so hard to get people?

Eric Villa:

Well, I think it’s a lot of lack of motivation and the reason a lot of those openings are there is because people are retiring. You get the old, the earlier generation that’s been around for 30, 40 years. It’s time for them to have fun and retire. So we’re having to fill those spots and with not having job classes in high school or different things like that in schools, it really cripples the industry because you have to get them interested first. How do we get them interested? We gotta start them early. If you go to a high school that doesn’t have automotive program or something like that, or a shop class, how are you supposed to get that younger generation interested in what we’re doing? How do we get them? How do we draw them in and say, Hey, this is a great opportunity for you.

Like you said, you and I both know that the industry, what we’re in is great. There’s a lot of opportunity there, a lot of growth and great sustainability to take care of your family, pay your bills, make a good living and have a good life. Well, how do we get those people in there? Part of the thing is too is cost. A lot of people look at it as like, oh, well, why should we have to buy our own tools to work on vehicles? Why do we do this? I mean, you know, as well as I do, you know, $60,000, $80,000 is not unheard of for a good technician to have in their arsenal of tools you know, triple roll away, toolbox full of tools to take care of your job. You know, a lot of people are like, well, why should we have to pay for tools? You know, we just wanna go work. Well, that’s another barrier that people see, but it just depends on what you’re gonna do. And your outlook towards that. Are you motivated to do that is really hard in that aspect without cultivating that at a younger age in the schools and the financial. So it’s not just one thing. I think there’s a lot of different things that go into attracting people into this industry.

Jamie Irvine:

I agree with you and certainly, the tool thing is definitely a barrier. I’ve seen people, rather I’ve heard people say, Hey, if you’re gonna choose a technical trade, don’t do mechanics of any kind, because the tool cost is so much higher for that than let’s say being an electrician or a plumber or some other trade. So we’re losing to other trades. And another to your earlier point about exposure, you’re absolutely right. Like if I hadn’t gone to a cooperative automotive program in high school, I don’t think I would’ve had any awareness about the industry. And when the opportunity to get into heavy duty came my way, I don’t know that I would’ve taken it. And I think a lot of families, you know, you don’t see them necessarily sitting around the dinner table and talking about how proud they are that their kid is going to, you know, join the trucking industry and become a professional driver or a technician. You know, they want their kids to be lawyers and doctors and maybe work in Silicon valley in the tech sector. So there’s these competing factors and then of course you brought up the demographics as well, which is definitely a major issue. There’s just not as many young people as there are people retiring. So the competition for people has just intensified.

Eric Villa:

Well, yeah it really has. And that competition boils back down to attitude, determination and drive. What do they want to do? Do they wanna sit around and play video games all day or do they actually want to get out and do something physical work with their hands and be able to be like, Hey look, I’m providing for my family. This is a great opportunity. There’s potential, endless potential right there. As far as job goes, you look at it as for longevity. So say you come in as a welder, what’s a job opportunity for that. You’re gonna be around for a long time. There’s always gonna be a need for a welder. And people are hiring welders right now. Like they’re going out of style, just like diesel technicians and mechanics everywhere. You just can’t find enough of them.

And if you do find one, everybody’s like, Hey, tell your friend. Well, they’re not motivated. So I’m over here doing this. You know, the motivation factor is the biggest thing is like, we’ve gotta figure out how to get into the schools and get people interested again and say, Hey, look, this is a good career. And you don’t have to have a college degree, a four year, six year or eight year degree to make that money. So you say, Hey, look if you went to a diesel technician school and you’re done in a year, you’re making $80,000 to a hundred thousand a year start now. And because you’re doing good, you’re excited. You’re motivated. You really learn. Your friend Joe could be in that four year school, still going to school, accumulating debt while you’re out there, you already got the scholarship from Diesel Garage Foundation.

You got everything done. Started fresh with tools and everything else. And four years later, he just graduates his school. Four years later, you moved up to service manager or a service tech higher position in your company making good money and you don’t have any bills. So there’s a lot of different stuff that we’ve really gotta get out there. And to do that, to get started first is the schools get a shop class back in there. And then another factor is talking to other people say, Hey man, why you gotta bash us. We’re doing good, just as good as you are, but you know, as well as I do, people are still gonna talk about it. So there’s really no way to overcome that part of it. The best way we can do is promote it early and promote it with everybody that we can.

Jamie Irvine:

I agree with you. I think promoting the industry has got to be a top priority. How can people support the Diesel Garage Foundation if they want to get involved and support what you’re doing? How do they go about doing that? You mentioned that it’s strictly funded by donations. So how do we go about doing that?

Eric Villa:

You can make donations right online to Diesel Garage Foundation.org. You can go on there and check everything out of what we have. There’s all kinds of different information that you can read for students, for parents, you can see our donor wall. The companies that have already supported us and are behind us and everything that we’ve got going on. You can go check that out and make an online donation. If you’re not familiar, you’re not comfortable with, you know, using credit card or whatever too. There’s also a way to do an offline donation, send it to us. Give us a call, the phone number’s on the bottom there and see what we can do to work with you guys and come out to your school or come out to your business and see what we can do to try to help promote more of the diesel technicians in there, or welders for welding companies and machinists and some of the CBL drivers.

We’re working with a school in Alaska right now, and we were just up in Alaska and got out our first Alaska and trade school scholarship up there. So we really love to help people out and talk to the schools and see what we can do to help. And we appreciate everybody’s help, getting behind the foundation and what we’re doing because we all know trade schools aren’t cheap, tools aren’t cheap. So we appreciate every little bit of help that we can get. Our goal is a hundred students a year. So you know I guess if you look at it in terms of numbers, that’s about a million bucks. So if your company wants to get some more people there and get people behind you guys go ahead and support the Diesel Garage Foundation because when you guys do that as well, we also reach out to the businesses and let them know, say, Hey look, you donated to us, you support us. Here’s a list of our graduates in the program that we think your business could use. So they have the potential to hire somebody out of that without having to pay for the training already. And if they hire somebody out the program, then they’ve already got an applicant that can come in and is moldable to their business.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. So they invested in you and you turned that investment right back towards them. So that’s fantastic. So what’s the step by step process of applying for the scholarship? How much of a scholarship does a person get? You kind of alluded to it before, but just summarize the process for us and what can they expect in the way of a scholarship if they are approved?

Eric Villa:

Okay. So first off is you apply for your trade school. They apply for welding. They want to go for that or diesel technician. They apply for it. They get accepted from the school, at the same time that they’re applying for that they need to apply for the Diesel Garage Foundation scholarship. So that way we know which school that they’re gonna be working with, so we can reach out and talk to them and say, Hey, look Mr. Smith over here. Has he applied for you guys? And has he been accepted? Oh yeah, he’s been accepted. Okay. So we see his application here as well for funding so we’re gonna reach out to that person and let them know to go ahead and submit their video to us. And once we go through there and review that, the staff and I at the Diesel Garage Foundation will look through that to see who gets that.

And it’s definitely a process, I couldn’t make the decision by myself. I got good people with me to help me out. Once we figure that out, we talk to the school, we see how much it is, scholarships usually we try to cover the full tuition and the set of tools. So it could range from anywhere from $6,500 all the way up to $20,000 or $25,000 for the one year program, of what it is and what we have available to those. If somebody says, Hey, we want to go to this school. It’s a two year program. Well, we support that, but we wanna focus on the one year because a lot of employers have stated that it would be easier to do that and have them there, their attitudes are better with certain things.

Jamie Irvine:

Get the yeah. Get them into the job as quickly as possible.

Eric Villa:

Exactly. Exactly. So you apply for the trade school, you apply for the Diesel Garage Foundation scholarship at the same exact time you get approved, send us a video. We approve you guys. Once we approve that we go ahead and take care of that, that payment with the school and the tools so that when you have that, obviously there’s paperwork involved where, you know, you’re responsible if you get kicked out of school or whatever. And what we want to do is rent the tools out for a dollar a month. That way the tools are still there available to them. And upon graduation, we consider that paid in full because you put this blood, sweat and tears into your program. I’m gonna come out. I want to come out and do a picture with you to show everybody look, the Diesel Garage Foundation scholarship program really works. We’ve got another graduate here. All his tools and tuition are considered paid in full at that point in time.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that’s a good deal for them. You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Eric Villa the Founder of the Diesel Garage Foundation. To learn more about the Diesel Garage Foundation, go to dieselgaragefoundation.org, links are in the show notes. Eric, thank you for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. Very, very happy to talk to you today.

Eric Villa:

Thanks for having us. We appreciate it.

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