Technology has changed the landscape of heavy equipment mechanics and service technicians. They are no longer expected to grab a wrench and get their hands dirty — today they’ll need to be just as versed in computer systems as the mechanics of an engine.
Bob Hammack, Louisiana Delta Community College’s executive director of economic and workforce development, said agriculture remains an economic powerhouse for north eastern Louisiana and with advances in technology, those jobs will require a level of training that was never imagined decades ago.
Farmers now rely on sophisticated and expensive equipment in order to maximize yields.
As a result, there is a huge demand for qualified people who can repair this high-tech equipment.
“Farming has become a very high-tech field. You can literally go into a field today, take soil samples in various areas, put it in a computer system that goes into a tractor … so as you go down that field, it tells you what you’ve got to do and where to do it. That’s great, but somebody’s got to be able to do it, and if it’s not working right, someone has got to be able to fix it.”
One field in the service technician industry that’s soaring in popularity and growing in demand are those involving aircrafts.
Robert Garrett, vice president of flight operations for Flying Tiger Aviation, is working with Louisiana Delta Community College to establish a program for specialized flight training dealing with agriculture, developing programs for remote pilot aircraft for drones in use in agriculture, wildlife and forestry management and a program for aviation maintenance.
“The job outlook for this particular career choice is very good. There is constantly a growing need for mechanics in the aviation industry. The reason for that is the turnover with retirements taking place, opening a lot of doors, plus it’s a growing industry,” Garrett said.
Additional growth will come from the emergence of drones, which at some point will be regulated by the FAA. That will require licensing in order to work on drones.
“That’s going to be huge. It’s going to take off and open up lots of doors and the FAA-certified aviation mechanics will have the opportunity to go into that field because they will already be trained in all the systems those platform utilizes,” Garrett said.
Aviation maintenance has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years with the technology that’s available for aircraft. This technology has made the aviation mechanic more than just a guy turning wrenches, but someone who is well versed in computers, troubleshooting electronic systems via computers.
“It is an ever-growing technical field,” Garrett said.
The aviation maintenance program, once it begins, will be an 18-month program that provides students with Federal Aviation Administration certification and licenses them to be able to become an aircraft mechanic.
Delta hopes to begin accepting students for that program in 2016. It will be offered initially at the Delta’s Bastrop campus.
Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians is a four-star rated career on the Louisiana Star Jobs list of occupations. The Louisiana Workforce Commission uses the list to rank occupations based on their ability to support and sustain families.
Ratings (laworks.net/stars) take into consideration wages, short- and long-term demand projections and the number of actual job postings within the past year.
Ratings go from one through five. Anything rated three stars or above is considered a demand occupation.
The average annual wage for farm equipment mechanics and service technicians in north eastern Louisiana in 2013, the latest information available, was $32,852. That’s close to the state wide average of $34,670.