LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - The diesel and heavy equipment industry is growing. But the diesel and heavy equipment program at Western Technical College (WTC) is still the same size. Renovations planned for June aim to remedy this issue.
"We cannot supply enough techs in this field to fill the jobs available," said Chad Hofslien, Instructor at Western Technical College's Diesel and Heavy Equipment Program. "Whether it be working on trucks, heavy equipment, agricultural equipment, it's all diesel and heavy equipment related."
In November 2012, a 79.8 million dollar referendum passed for improvements to Western Technical College. Part of this money will go to renovating the Diesel and Heavy Equipment program which is dangerously overcrowded.
"It makes it difficult to even just move around," said Ryan Samuel, WTC Diesel and Heavy Equipment program student. "A lot of the time it's hard to even get behind some of the trucks… Sometimes we have to open the garage doors to get to the next bay down. It's harder for them to teach even. When he's trying to point something out it's hard to get everyone in one area with how much stuff there is."
"You spend more time jockeying equipment around and trying to make things fit into a confined space," said Hofslien. "If I got to move three, four pieces of equipment around just to get it through the door… Now you're losing instructional time by doing that rather than actually teaching on the piece of equipment you want to be teaching on."
The overcrowding is also a potential safety hazard.
"Oh, there's a lot of safety concerns," said Hofslien. "And that's caused by the overcrowding of it. Students are stepping over things or things are so close that somebody behind you is working on something and they're only two feet away. Otherwise, for the most part, this facility has served its purpose over the years… We just basically need more room."
Luckily, the solution to this problem is in sight. Construction for a larger and upgraded program space is scheduled to begin in June.
"Both facilities that we're using right now are makeshift. They weren't built for this purpose," said Mike Pieper, Vice President of Western Technical College's Finance & Operations. "We're growing the overall square footage by about one third. But the space will be built for the purpose of diesel and heavy equipment training."
Right now the program is split between two locations, one that is leased and one that is owned. The renovations will bring the entire department under one roof by expanding the main building owned by WTC.
"First having all the faculty and staff under one roof," said Pieper, "better engagement from the students and staff standpoint, and then just a much better facility."
But for current students, the best thing will simply be the extra space.
"It will help a lot with opening it up," said Samuel. "Making it easier to teach, making it easier to walk around, making it overall safer."
The renovations will also give students the opportunity to work with newer and more kinds of equipment, and will create more space for new students to enter the program.
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