(WACO, TEXAS) - As a child, Beau Babineau of Creedmoor enjoyed flipping cars. In high school, he worked as a mechanic and knew he wanted to work with diesel equipment after his dad bought a diesel truck.
"I've learned more in two semesters than I had in most of high school," said Babineau, 18, a Diesel Equipment Technology student at Texas State Technical College in Waco.
Job prospects are booming for students studying to become diesel technicians.
"Industry pretty much comes here," said David Folz, lead instructor for the Diesel Equipment Technology program at TSTC in Waco. "They are constantly calling us."
The program has developed several partnerships with industry leaders such as RDO Equipment Co. and Freightliner. Many of these companies send representatives to TSTC to talk to students about the field.
"It is up to the student if they want to do well and it is hard on them, but that is the way life is nowadays," said Michael Sanders, a Diesel Equipment Technology instructor at TSTC in Marshall. "Most of our students who graduate go into the mechanic profession. I have them working in Midland. I have had some in Kilgore. I have some working in Longview. We do a lot of interning with companies out there."
Diesel Equipment Technology major Robert C. Landry, 21, of Cypress, said attending TSTC's Industry Job Fair events has helped him meet people in the industry. He said he is excited about opportunities in the field.
"The industry is growing big time," Landry said. "So there is definitely job security."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas employs the most bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists in the country with more than 27,400 workers.
Durham School Services provides transportation for schools across the United States. The company is frequently looking for qualified technicians to hire.
"It is very difficult to find good mechanics," said Enrique Rangel, lead technician for Durham School Services in Waco. "Experience is something I look for."
Rangel says experience makes candidates stand out more during the hiring process.
"We'll base it [hiring] on experience," Rangel said. "What have they done and where can we develop them to become better mechanics?"
Supervisors at the Sabine Mining Co. in Hallsville see little turnover in their mobile equipment department.
The more than 40 employees, some being graduates of TSTC, work on bulldozers, forklifts, hydraulic cranes and other heavy equipment for mining operations. The company currently has one full-time diesel equipment mechanic opening.
Matt Hampton, the company's mobile equipment department maintenance manager, said finding the right employees is a challenge. Hampton said the company looks for employees through online job sites and career fairs. He said the two biggest qualities sought in job candidates are aptitude and attitude.
Hampton said the company uses TSTC students as paid interns, and many are hired after graduation.
"We like having the interns around," Hampton said. "It gives them a chance to do a year to two-year interview. If the timing is right and the person is right, we will hire them."
TSTC's Diesel Equipment Technology students get a combination of classroom and hands-on learning.
"They prepare us pretty dang well and they've got a lot of engines for us to work on," said Babineu. "The instructors really seem to care about the stuff we're learning. We have a lot of hands-on work and it's pretty fast-paced."
Babineau is excited for the future and for the rest of his time at TSTC.
"Coming out of a school and having two associate degrees, I think I'll be moving up quickly through the field," Babineau said. "A lot of people don't get that opportunity."
TSTC's Diesel Equipment Technology program offers students certificates and associate degrees with specialties. In addition to Marshall and Waco, the program is offered on the Fort Bend County, North Texas and Sweetwater campuses.
For more information about Texas State Technical College, visit tstc.edu.
Texas State Technical College in Waco's Diesel Equipment Technology students work on a variety of hands-on projects in their classes.