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Partnership offers career opportunities to CTC students

• Dec 7, 2018 at 4:00 PM

WEST OLIVE — A 26-year partnership between the Careerline Tech Center’s Diesel/Heavy Equipment Mechanics program and Michigan CAT, a Grand Rapids-based heavy equipment dealer and service provider, connects students to real-world job skills, mentors, learning opportunities and potential careers at CAT after graduation.

Kevin Wiersma has been the instructor for the CTC program for more than 30 years. He said the relationship with Michigan CAT began in 1992 when the company donated a large engine to the CTC Diesel/HEM classroom. The relationship deepened when Michigan CAT employees began serving as Diesel/HEM advisory committee members.

“The advisory committee members’ professional expertise and high level of involvement with our program throughout the years have provided invaluable experiences for our students,” Wiersma said. “We eventually started a job co-op program with CAT, and I’m proud to say our first student placed through the co-op is still employed there and in the highest position at the shop.”

Many of the CTC Diesel/HEM graduates return to the classroom as mentors to speak to students about careers and life after high school. They say it’s a way of paying forward the impactful opportunities they received.

Recently, Diesel/HEM student and homeschooled senior Hunter Waltz found a mentor in CAT’s product monitoring specialist, Michael Borst, who is a 2005 graduate of the Diesel/HEM program. Besides the program connection, Waltz and Borst also have the use of only one arm.

“It was inspiring for Hunter to see someone else like him working successfully in the Diesel/HEM field,” Wiersma said. “We are currently working with CAT on a non-paid work experience so Hunter can better make career decisions down the road along with Michael Borst’s guidance. This mentorship is a learning experience for both young men, and we are thrilled to have helped them meet each other.”

In addition to the invaluable personal time donated by Michigan CAT employees over the years, the company has donated training equipment worth thousands of dollars that CTC would financially be unable to purchase. These donations allow students to get first-hand experience with machinery currently used in the field, giving them an advantage on other job seekers upon graduation.

CTC students are also eligible to participate in the Caterpillar ThinkBIG Technician Education program developed by Caterpillar out of a need for qualified service technicians. Upon successful completion of the CTC Diesel/HEM program, students selected by Michigan CAT to enter the two-year program receive an associate’s degree in heavy equipment technology through Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, and are eligible to have nearly all of their tuition reimbursed, depending on their grades.

To date, dozens of students who completed the Diesel/HEM program have participated in ThinkBIG and secured jobs with Michigan CAT, including some who are currently serving in management positions.

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