by Chris Bahn
Posted 5/20/2013 12:00 am
Updated 7 months ago
Turning students away is not something that Keith Peterson, vice president of instruction at Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale, enjoys.
But that’s the spot in which NTI finds its diesel and truck technology program. There is more interest from prospective students than there is space to accommodate them on the Springdale campus.
Jobs for diesel techs are plentiful in northwest Arkansas, home to major trucking companies and retailers that need a way to transport their goods. NTI estimates that the region is home to 25,000 diesel trucks/tractors. So there is great need for workers who can diagnose problems and service engines.
“The diesel industry in northwest Arkansas is insatiable,” as Peterson puts it. “We need to be doing more.”
NTI could soon increase its role in helping feed that appetite. Peterson said the school plans to break ground this summer on an expansion that will double its existing lab space.
Currently, NTI can fit no more than 40 students and accompanying equipment into the 6,000-SF diesel shop at once. Space also restricts the number and size of jobs possible inside the existing lab. Students can’t fit a full tractor-trailer rig into the shop, which means work is occasionally done in extreme hot or cold temperatures.
There is no lift to accommodate large trucks either. That makes training even more difficult.
“You pull in a Hyundai and lift it up on a rack, that’s one thing. You pull in a 12-ton diesel, and that’s a pretty big dude,” Peterson said. “The lab environment is so congested that we’ve needed to do something for years. Now we actually have the funds. We’re excited about the chance to expand and meet the needs that are there.”
Peterson said the school secured approximately $300,000 in funding from the state of Arkansas two years ago and “tucked it away” until additional fundraising goals were met. Total cost of the expansion is about $500,000, an expense Peterson said NTI has wanted to incur since at least 2010.