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Binder Apprenticeship Program Proves Successful in NJ

Wed October 20, 2004 - Northeast Edition
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A career as a heavy-equipment service technician isn’t for everyone. But for those with the talent and qualifications, opportunities are endless. Despite that, attracting new people to become service technicians is difficult. Maybe it’s because of the complexity of today’s machines or the hard physical work that’s sometimes involved. In any case, it’s become a universal problem, according to longtime Binder employee and training instructor Ed Snyder.

“Machines are much more complicated today,” said Snyder. “To be a good service technician, you have to be able to work across the model line. You have to be able to read and comprehend complicated material. You have to understand electrical and hydraulic schematics and how the systems work in order to troubleshoot them.

“A technician must also be computer literate because many of the electronic engines and transmissions require computer skills,” he added. “And you have to think on your feet. That’s still very important.”

Apprenticeship Program

To attract new service technicians to Binder Machinery, Snyder runs a successful apprenticeship program and works closely with a nearby technical school, Engine City Tech, to bring in graduates. Mechanics also have come from Nashville Auto Diesel College and other technical schools where they learn the basic skills needed to tackle the work.

“I like to personally go to the school and give a quiz to the graduates to find out where their interests lie. I encourage those who want to get into heavy equipment to enter our program,” he said.

Snyder graduated from Engine City Tech in 1973. He also was an instructor there before joining Binder in 1989. Today he is on the school’s board of directors where he has input into what courses should be taught to keep up with the changes in the construction equipment industry.

Successful Graduate

Binder’s apprentice program usually lasts six weeks and generally includes four students. During that time they learn safety skills, machine operation and the basic services they will need to perform.

Mike Finnegan, one successful graduate of Binder’s apprenticeship program, is now a Class A mechanic.

“When I came in five years ago, I didn’t know much about equipment,” he admitted. “I knew a lot about trucks but I didn’t know much about hydraulics. Binder’s training taught me how a system works, what to look for, and how to test and maintain the system. I learned a lot.”

Finnegan graduated from Nashville Auto Diesel College but was attracted to working on heavy equipment instead of trucks because he found it more challenging.

“Everything I work on is different,” he said. “I work on whatever they throw my way and I really enjoy that.”

Unlimited Opportunities

Asked why young people should work in the industry, Finnegan responded, “It’s hard work but it pays well and it’s rewarding.”

“You’re not trapped in a small industry,” added Snyder. “The opportunities are vast, not only for working on so many difficult models of equipment, but for moving up into service management in the future. There’s such a need for that today, too. Service managers are becoming very different to find because so many people who want to get into management have a college degree but don’t have any technical experience. That’s difficult to get — you can’t gain all the knowledge by reading a book.”

Snyder not only runs the service apprenticeship program for Binder, he also trains Binder technicians on all new and updated models and all new product lines. It’s an ongoing process at Binder to maintain high skill levels at reading schematics, understanding basic principles and troubleshooting.

More contractors are using Binder’s service technicians to take care of their heavy equipment instead of using their own mechanics, according to Snyder.

“Customers are also having trouble attracting good mechanics,” he said. “Plus, the equipment is becoming so sophisticated and the overhead is so high. You have to have the right tooling to do the work and the training and know-how to use it.”

Binder’s shops have all the mechanical tooling needed for truck work, including track presses; engine tooling to rebuild engines; transmission tooling; a dynamometer to test engines; and computers with the necessary hardware and software.

Goal — Customer Service

Customer satisfaction is the goal of all its training, according to Snyder.

“The sales department can sell a customer his first machine but the service department sells the rest,” he said. “If we don’t support the machine, we’re not going to sell any more machines, so customer satisfaction is the No. 1 thing. Not only that, when we prep or work on a machine in the shop, we return it to the customer clean and repaired properly the first time. That’s key.”

With the great demand for service technicians today, Snyder said he takes a great deal of pleasure in working with new technicians like Mike Finnegan.

“This is the best time to get into the service industry,” he said. “It gives me a great sense of satisfaction because we’re helping young people improve their earning potential and their knowledge.”

(This article appears courtesy of “Building With Binder.”)