by Sterling Allen
for Agri-Times NW
“The best learning receptacles are the student hands in the learning experience,” said Andy Winnett, Program Coordinator for the John Deere Technology program at Walla Walla Community College.
WWCC offers an outstanding educational career program for students with mechanical aptitude and strong work ethic. JD dealerships from nine states send their students to WWCC to be trained. The John Deere Technology program consists of classroom lecture and laboratory experiences on actual John Deere products and includes a unique paid cooperative work experience for students at a John Deere dealership.
“Really, what makes this program work is who comes in the door as a student. This course operates as a partnership among the John Deere Company, John Deere dealers, Walla Walla Community College and college students,” said Winnett. The course work covers two years.
Students are in the classroom a term, followed by internship breaks of applied learning on the job at JD dealerships, then back to the classroom. Some of the WWCC courses include JD Engine, Electrical/electronics, Hydraulics, Power Train, Harvesting Equipment and AMS Guidance, Mapping and Application.
“Everything we do is using the John Deere Service Advisor software. Students learn how running equipment in the US is operating with mobile connections and view how the equipment is performing remotely.
John Deere supports the college program by offering four new tractors for classroom experience and provides a tool and parts budget. “Testing good on new JD equipment is a reference point for students in their education experience,” said Winnett. A dozen JD older JD tractors, a swather and baler on the school lot are also used in the educational programs.
“The two outstanding college teachers, Les Echtenkamp and Cullen Coulston, receive advanced training annually at John Deere training facility in Waterloo, IA. They are a major part of our student’s success,” said Winnett. Today, the school has 19 students with 15 students currently at cooperative JD dealers training on sight. Even after one term, the JD students have skills that can generate billable income during training for the JD shop.
The JD dealers often seek aspiring students locally or students seek assistance from WWCC staff to match with a dealer. The estimated tuition and books direct education costs total only $5,376. Graduating students receive an Associate Degree in Applied Arts and Science Degree in John Deere Technology.
“I entered this program because I wanted a career with a family wage job,” said student Josh Donnahue, Tulare, CA who is sponsored by Kern Machinery. “I have mechanical interests, an interest in farming, and wanted to be set up with a job when I graduate,” said Eric Schiller, Loma Linda, CA who is sponsored by Farm Equipment Sales in Plentywood, MT. These two students were enrolled in the Electrical class and were dismantling starters and changing components during our visit
Everyone who walks in the door has a job at a JD dealership. (Something we can’t say about today’s Liberal Art graduates) Some JD dealers offer reimbursement for educational costs to students. The dealerships need these upcoming graduates to replenish their graying workforce and have the modern computer and electronic skills now needed to perform the majority of the job tasks or they will be left behind. John Deere dealerships offer a on the job career path for graduates to become an Advanced Tech and Master Tech by taking additional classes in the future.
The WWCC John Deere Technology program is an outstanding college opportunity for youth to gain knowledge and job skills than transform within two years to a family wage job. Winnett, the vivacious Program Coordinator, clearly has a passion to educate and place students in a career path. He pays attention to the students needs and communicates with the dealerships on how the student is performing during training.
Interested students should contact their local John Deere dealership or Program Coordinator, Andy Winnett, (509)-529-1999 to learn more about the exciting educational and career opportunities.