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The Next Generation of Diesel Technicians: WyoTech Tour

Take a tour of WyoTech with us, and hear about what makes WyoTech different from other schools.

Episode 264: We have a special experience for you in this episode. While attending HDA Truck Pride’s Annual Meeting, we had the opportunity to take a tour of WyoTech, a unique trade school in Laramie, Wyoming, that offers a fast-paced diesel technician training program. Afterward, we hear from Cindy Barlow, the Director of Industry Relations for WyoTech about what makes them different.

Take a tour of WyoTech with us, and hear about what makes WyoTech different from other schools.

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Transcript of Episode

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people.

In this episode, we have a special experience for you. While attending this year’s annual meeting at HDA Truck Pride, we had a chance to take a tour of the Wyotech Campus in Laramie, Wyoming. Wyotech is a trade school that has a very unique methodology for getting students into the field faster. They have a diesel technician training program, unlike any I have seen before.

So come with me on the tour and then we’re going to interview Cindy Barlow who will talk about the entire experience, and we have an exciting announcement at the end of the episode that you’ll want to hang around for. So let’s get started with the tour of Wyotech. We’re in Laramie, Wyoming at the Wyotech Campus with HDA Truck Prides group. We’re taking a tour of this amazing facility. I am so excited to share with you what they’re doing here to bring an entire new generation of technicians to the commercial trucking industry.

So come on with me, let’s go on the tour together. You’re going to love what you see. This facility is awesome. As you can see behind me, they have a truck on a hoist here. They give students the opportunity to work on commercial trucks. And as we will continue with the tour, you’re going to see that students are given an opportunity to focus on various aspects, but they have the equipment here to provide students with the training necessary so that when they enter into the workforce, they will be prepared to help keep commercial trucks on the road.

Students don’t get a chance to just work on commercial trucks. They get to work on small equipment and big equipment. One of the first stations that we got to tour was this area where I was really surprised to hear that not only are they teaching technicians how to completely disassemble and reassemble a manual transmission, they also have a program for automated transmissions.

So a student that comes through this program is going to learn exactly how these transmissions work, that is going to help them to be able to diagnose those transmissions in the field because they understand exactly how they work from start to finish. This location where students are learning about air systems got my attention because early in my career I remanufactured a lot of these products. This is an area where they learn the entire air system up to and including drum and disc brake systems, and they understand how the entire system works.

When you see it all put together like this, you can get an idea of how the student is exposed to the entire system all in one place on the board, and then they can take that information and apply it to the actual trucks when they’re diagnosing and repairing air system components that would be all over the truck and trailer, but this is where it all starts.

We all know how important electrical systems are, and right now you can see students being trained with the boards on how to diagnose electrical problems. Students get a complete education here at Wyotech, as we’ve seen in the electrical and air. They’re also being trained on hydraulics. They are here for over nine months, eight hours a day in this kind of training.

And their exposure to all of these systems is critical to getting them ready to work in, not only the commercial trucking industry, but also in other vocations that might make them work on large scale equipment that has hydraulic systems or small scale equipment as well. During the tour, we had a chance to stop and talk to Jay Meek. Now Jay is the Diesel Assistant Coordinator at Wyotech and he gave us a little bit of information about the scope of the facility at w. Listen to what Jay had to say about the scope of Wyotech.

Jay Meek:

We could house a lot of people. We had, we’ve had up to 1800 people, students on campus at one time, and that was back in 2010 ish. And then everything started kind of going downhill a little bit. But I mean when Jim took over it, there was 12 students like you, like he said, yeah. And now there’s six to 800. We’re looking at thousand for October. So yeah, we’re going to be bursting at the seams.

The only thing holding us back from getting more students is not having the instructors to teach ’em right now in all reality. So I mean, we got good people that are not done with the industry but can’t work anymore, I mean, they’re an asset to us.

Jamie Irvine:

So if you’ve got 20 years of experience and you want to get out of wrenching…

Jay Meek:

Well 10 years, even 10 years, I mean, if you got 10 years experience and you want to get out of it and go a different route and give back, I mean it’s what we need to do.

Jamie Irvine:

So when you’re taking a tour of a company or a campus like this, of course the people who are taking you on the tour are trying to show you the best of what they have to offer. And sometimes it’s nice to be able to take a moment and talk to someone who’s actually either working at the facility or in this case, because it was a campus, a student actually taking classes at this campus.

So I had a chance to talk to Lauren. She is an up and coming diesel technician, and it was interesting to hear her perspective of what it was like to be a student at Wyotech and what she was learning in addition to just the technical training, but also how she felt this whole program was preparing her for the workforce. Listening to my conversation with Lauren, one of the star students at Wyotech.

Okay. Lauren, we’re here at Wyotech and it’s been great that you guys have opened up the campus to let us come and visit and tour, but I wanted to talk to an actual student away from everybody else to get the real deal. So first of all, Lauren, what drew you to Wyotech?

Lauren:

How short the schooling is and how much you can learn in that nine months is actually crazy. You can come in here not even knowing what a truck even looks like and they’ll teach you down to the bones.

Jamie Irvine:

So when you came here, did you have a specific area that you wanted to go in or a specific career in mind, or were you coming here for general knowledge and did your experience here at Wyotech guide you in where you’re headed for a career?

Lauren:

Well, I think that I started just wanting to go into any diesel really. And then probably three months into it I was like, yeah, mining or construction or something in that line looking cool. Just being part of a different community and a ongoing community that’s always, you’re always learning new things. It’s always changing.

It’s just like if you love learning new things, you’ll love this just because it’s always changing. I feel like I’ve grown up so much because you’re living by yourself and you’re fighting for yourself. You, it’s like a whole new job. If you haven’t only had a job out of high school that’s like full time, you learn how to do that and you, you’ve meet so many new people, like different cultures from all different states and just how to really talk to people.

So if you’re shy, you’re not shy by the end of it. So I think it’s really fun. You just find yourself honestly. You really have to be able to put yourself into it. If you’re not going to do that at work, you’re not going to go do that here.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, Lauren, thank you so much for taking time to talk to us about it. I really appreciate it.

Lauren:

Yeah, of course. Thank you so much.

Jamie Irvine:

This is a truly impressive facility and I’ve really enjoyed my time. Here at Wyotech. We got to see the whole facility that they focus on commercial equipment. They also have automotive programs and other programs for technicians. They’re truly a real support to the industry, and as you’ve seen in all of this, the level of training that they get in such a compressed timeframe is essential to get them out into the field working as quickly as possible to try to solve the technician problem.

So to the Wyotech campus and team, thank you so much for having us here. We really appreciated you giving us the opportunity to see this truly impressive facility. I had a great time taking the tour at Wyotech and I was excited to have an opportunity to talk to Cindy Barlow, who is the Director of Industry relations at the HDA Truck Pride annual meeting the next day.

After the break, you’ll hear that interview and we have a special announcement, so stay with us. We’ll be right back.

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Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from our break. The Wyotech Campus is an amazing place and it was really inspiring to see those young students preparing for a career in heavy-duty. A couple days later at the HDA Truck Pride Annual Meetings exhibition, I had a chance to sit down with Cindy Barlow, who is the director of industry relations at Wyotech. In this part of the conversation with Cindy, we talk about exactly what the school is doing to try to prepare the next generation of diesel technicians.

And I was very, very inspired by my tour at Wyotech a couple days prior and I had been thinking about something that I wanted to do and I made the decision to announce it in this episode. So listen to my conversation with Cindy and hang on to the end to hear about the exciting announcement. Here’s my conversation with Cindy Barlow, Director of Industry Relations at Wyotech.

Cindy Barlow:

Hi, my name is Cindy Barlow. I’m the Director of Industry Relations for Wyotech.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re at HDA Truck Pride’s Annual Meeting, and we had an opportunity to tour the Wyotech facility. And now I have the chance to sit down with Cindy. Cindy’s been with Wyotech for four years now. In her career before that, she was involved in politics. She’s also worked in the oil and gas industry, so she is a friend of the commercial vehicle industry. Cindy, welcome to The Heavy Duty Parts Report.

Cindy Barlow:

Thank you for having me. Good to be here today.

Jamie Irvine:

So we were at your facility, it’s an amazing campus. We got a chance to interview some of your people, one of your students. It was a really great experience. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about why Wyyotech has been successful in recruiting kids to a trade school. When you’re competing with all the other schools out there for all of this young talent, what has made Wyotech successful in the last few years?

Cindy Barlow:

Well, I think it’s important to say that we have a great team and we’re committed to the trades. We’re committed to the student making sure that they have the best experience and the best outcomes. We focus on that student that has a passion for the trade, and so we go to our FFA chapters, we focus on Skills USA, in a world that talks about supporting the trades, Wyotech is consistent with words in action. Our recruiters focus in those areas.

They identify those classrooms that have automotive and diesel programs that are really good with passionate teachers, and we’re able to identify those students that really are excited about being in the trades.

Jamie Irvine:

So coming out of high school some kids, they’re going to end up in four year bachelor degrees at liberal arts universities. Other kids end up at Wyotech. What makes those kids different? What is the profile of the student that you’re looking for to join biotech?

Cindy Barlow:

Again, we have 25 field reps that are going to high schools literally every single day. And it’s all about relationships and knowing people and knowing what they want to do with their life. And we’re not having enough conversations. And so we take the time to have those conversations. We get to know them, we build that relationship, we understand what their needs are, and then we encourage them. We show them, we invite them out to our campus and we have them come, look, mom and dad, support is imperative. We need to have mom and dads come and see what we have.

You know, in America we have created a narrative that the trades are a less than type of career, and so many kids that are going into marine biology, quite honestly are coming back to the trades, whether it’s welding, automotive, diesel, collision, whatever you may be, plumber, electrician, and those are the kids that are actually following their passion. And we have a saying at Wyotech, forge your own path.

We believe that you need to know your brand, forge your path. And they are now forging their own path, trusting that what their passion is that they’re following. So our student knows what they want in that direction and we encourage them to adjust accordingly. Even when they’re at Wyotech, what do they need? Are some of their interests still the same? And we have those six specialty classes that allow them to be able to do that adjustment.

Jamie Irvine:

Let’s start with the false narrative that our industries are somehow less than careers. They’re not. In fact, most of the time, once you are successful in this career, you make more money than a lot of the people in the other programs who are kind of at the beginning putting us down. So right away, if you just want to look at it from an economic level, but how do you get mom and dad to sit around the table with grandma and grandpa and proudly say, my kid is going into the trades.

My kid is going to be a diesel mechanic. My kid is going to go into one of those vocations because I think that’s been one of the problems over the last, let’s say 30 years, right? Sure. Mom and dad are sitting around the table. Johnny’s going to be a lawyer, Susie’s going to be a doctor. They’re so proud. We need parents to understand how good this industry is and to be proud of their kids. So how do you reach mom and dad?

Cindy Barlow:

So number one, we always sit down with mom and dad at the kitchen table when we’re presenting our school. So this conversation is never void of them. But let’s face it, COVID actually brought a new opportunity and that new opportunity was that our transportation industry was impacted so greatly. And this recession economy is also showing us that those jobs that are consistent, that are always there are those jobs that are in the trades.

America was built, our backbone is the trades. And you’re right, for so long, our schools have actually promoted that two year, four year college. But let’s unpack that one just a little bit because honestly, those schools are funded with our taxpayer dollars and they want to keep those kids in that system so that they can support that system.

Correct. And so oftentimes it’s viewed that an outside school is not the avenue when in fact, if we look at how our schools are being taught, let’s take for example, at Wyotech, we’re 1,440 hours in our classrooms and shops, whereas if they go into an automotive or diesel program in a two year college, we don’t teach ballet in English, right?

Right. So we are probably 60% in our shops and the other 40% in our classrooms learning the subject matter that these kids want to learn. So there’s a fundamental difference in the model of our trade school compared to public schools, but they’re definitely being fed in that direction to keep up with the two year, four year versus a trade school where in nine months, yeah, nine months you are back to work and earning a living.

Tuition reimbursement opportunities and relocation opportunities that nobody else is offering for your two year, four years. So I’m also proud to say that at Wyotech we have a career fair that is bar none, I think the best.

Every quarter we put this on our career fairs fill up in about two and a half days with 100 employers coming nationwide to come attract our kids to their shop floors. That means they are going to have an opportunity to go to work immediately and not wonder who they have to go to work to. They’re going fantastic to have an opportunity to go to work immediately.

Jamie Irvine:

I think that your school and your program is amazing. We’ve been saying for a long time that we need to do more to get more young people into the business. We’re going to put our money where our mouth is. The Heavy Duty Parts Report is going to create a scholarship for a Wyotech student, and we are happy to announce that in today’s episode. Cindy, thank you so much.

Cindy Barlow:

Exciting. Thank you.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, I hope that you have enjoyed this episode where we got to really spend some quality time with the people at Wyotech. These are great people, a great facility, and they are truly preparing the next generation of diesel technicians.

And we are so excited at The Heavy Duty Parts Report to be supporting the efforts and the students who will be attending Wyotech in the years to come. If you haven’t already, make sure that you follow the show. Head over to heavydutypartsreport.com and subscribe to our weekly email so you never miss out on any content or follow us on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.

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