Highway Equipment partnership pays off for students, faculty

PHOTOS PROVIDED Justin W. Beishline, assistant dean of transportation and natural resources technologies at Penn College, talks with Weatherly High School students in a visit facilitated by Highway Equipment & Supply Co.

WILLIAMSPORT – With its hallmark brand of hands-on education in more than 100 career fields, Pennsylvania College of Technology opens a world of possibilities to its students. And for graduates in the college’s heavy construction equipment majors, that fertile ground can be as close as a neighboring county.

A Volvo Construction Equipment dealership, the family-owned Highway Equipment & Supply Co. offers equipment sales, parts, service and rentals from locations in Harrisburg, Drums, Brownstown … and Lock Haven.

“Penn College students and alumni hired since 2016 now account for 24% of Highway’s service department staff,” said Jennifer Nauss, the company’s human resources, marketing and communications manager. “At our Lock Haven branch, students in the college’s heavy construction equipment technician program currently account for 40% of the service department staff.”

While both of those students work part time, one of them will be joining Highway full time when he graduates in May. The other will transfer to the Drums branch to complete his internship over the summer, then go back to Lock Haven when the Fall 2020 semester begins.

This school year, Nauss said she “kicked things up a notch” by asking Penn College faculty to partner with her in attending career fairs and exploration events at regional high schools.

PHOTOS PROVIDED The Gold Rush Excavator – a uniquely customized 20-ton Volvo CE EC200E model – was brought to Pennsylvania College of Technology’s main campus Sept. 5 as part of a 10th anniversary tour for Discovery’s “Gold Rush” television series.

“As an employer, it’s not enough anymore to sit back and hope that high school students, from where our branches are located, find their way to the heavy construction equipment technician program at Penn College,” she explained. “Students don’t know that the technician career field exists, that it’s lucrative, that it’s not just for guys and that Penn College offers it. I need students to go into that program so I can hire them when they graduate!”

Justin W. Beishline, assistant dean of transportation and natural resources technologies, characterized Highway Equipment & Supply Co. as “an important asset” to Penn College faculty and students.

“The heavy equipment industry has a shortage of skilled technicians in this country and recruitment is more important than ever,” he said. “Highway understands the importance of visiting high schools to inform students of the opportunities in this industry.”

Beishline was impressed when Nauss invited instructor/department head Chris S. Weaver to recruit at a career and technical school in Lancaster during the fall semester. And he saw firsthand the benefits of their ongoing collaboration during a trip to a Carbon County school district.

“I accompanied Jen on a recent recruiting visit to Weatherly High School and was amazed at how she promoted our alumni, programs and curriculum to every student she talked with,” he said. “It was very effective to recruit with an employer that hires our students because students love seeing the connection between a college and actual careers. Penn College and employers have similar needs to fill the skills gap, and it makes sense to partner up to recruit.”

PHOTO PROVIDED Highway Equipment’s Jennifer Nauss and Penn College instructor Chris S. Weaver are shown during a recruitment visit to McCaskey High School in Lancaster.

Due to the relationships Highway has built with Penn College, Nauss said, she can text Weaver and tell him about a high school that she’s visiting. He, Beishline or whomever is available will then attend with her, working together to make their booth interactive, engaging and fun. Weaver does the same thing when he’s staffing a career fair in Nauss’s Harrisburg home area, she said.

“Penn College isn’t just a source for technician talent to Highway; it’s a highly valued partnership,” Nauss said.

In addition to providing immediate employment opportunities, Nauss worked closely with Weaver last spring to set up an interactive Lab Day for students in conjunction with a Volvo excavator on loan to the college.

The partnership extends to Pennsylvania’s SkillsUSA program: Highway Equipment & Supply Co. provides personnel and equipment for the diesel technology and heavy equipment operator categories at the state level, Volvo CE hosted this year’s operator competition at its Shippensburg facility, and three Penn College faculty members facilitate the diesel contest.

Ryan Flood, Highway vice president, is a member of the college’s Heavy Construction Equipment Technician Emphasis Advisory Committee.

And last fall, the company brought to Penn College the “Volvo Construction Equipment/Discovery Gold Rush Excavator Tour.” In a parking lot near the college’s automotive facilities, the campus community marked the 10th anniversary of Discovery’s “Gold Rush” television series by getting a look at the 20-ton, Volvo Construction Equipment EC200E excavator – complete with embroidered signatures from the series’ three co-stars.

If you are a high school student contemplating attending Penn College, and want to see if a heavy construction equipment technician career might be right for you, contact Nauss – at 717-564-3031, ext. 3170, or at jennifer@hwyequip.com – to set up a Highway branch tour or an opportunity to shadow a Highway technician.

The college’s School of Transportation & Natural Resources Technologies offers associate degrees in diesel technology, on-site power generation and three emphases of heavy construction equipment technology, as well as a certificate in diesel technician. For more information, visit www.pct.edu/tnrt or call 570-327-4516.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Or plan to attend the college’s comprehensive Spring Open House (www.pct.edu/openhouse) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 28.


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