Annie Briggs sees big-city challenges but still has her small-town grit.
Briggs, a master technician at TA Truck Service near Atlanta, Georgia, got her professional start at TravelCenters of America in Hillsboro after graduating in 2014 from Texas State Technical College's Waco campus.
"Atlanta is crazy," Briggs said. "It was like exponential growth in a short period of time. There are all kinds of trucks, failures, accidents -- things that happen."
TA Truck Service locations operate 24 hours a day, so there is plenty of work to be done.
"You have to come in and see if there is a work in progress and find out if they (other technicians) are waiting for parts, or if there is anything in the shop to get finished," Briggs said.
It is work that she sees a future in.
"I would not mind moving into a mentor position," Briggs said. "I enjoy working on the floor and being on that side of it."
Briggs grew up in Corsicana and is a 2012 graduate of Corsicana High School. She remembers the lead-up to her enrollment at TSTC.
"I actually registered before I took a tour of the campus," she said. "When I took the tour, Richard Stranacher (an instructor in TSTC's Diesel Equipment Technology program) was very welcoming, and he kind of put things in perspective. Going into it, I literally knew nothing. My dad sat me down a month before school started and taught me what the tools were called."
Briggs graduated with associate degrees in three specializations in the Diesel Equipment Technology program and also earned a Welding Technology certificate at TSTC. The learning process was a challenge.
The need for diesel service mechanics and technicians in the United States is projected to increase to more than 304,000 workers by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency attributes this to an increase in freight travel and the popularity of diesel automobiles and trucks.
David Folz, lead instructor in TSTC's Diesel Equipment Technology program in Waco, said companies contact the program regularly for graduates to fill jobs. The program has cultivated industry partnerships with companies such as TravelCenters of America, RDO Equipment Co. and Freightliner, enabling representatives to visit the campus to talk to
"A lot of them (the students) are going back to their hometowns and know what they want to do," Folz said.
Jim Reed, a vice president for TA Truck Service, said diesel equipment technology graduates can make a good living. But, he said the pool of potential employees is shrinking. "Getting people to go from the traditional four-year bachelor's degree to go for the technical degree and come into the market is getting tougher and tougher," Reed said.
Current and new diesel technicians will need to adapt to new technology expected to be seen on roads and in garages in the next few years.
"Electric trucks are becoming more popular," Reed said. "Once they figure out the battery and recharging, that is the next wave. It's a good industry that is constantly changing, and the biggest thing is you want to get with a company that gives you the opportunity to grow your career."
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.