The perennial problem of workforce shortages and worries about bringing a new generation into the construction industry are nothing new for Bob Bailey. As manager for human resources and risk management at FABCO, an independent Caterpillar equipment dealership based in Madison, Wis., Bailey had tried all the popular strategies to recruit and train new dieselservice technicians and get young people interested in heavy equipment. But a few years ago he decided to cut out the middleman, and the result is FABTECH, a unique training program held at Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh. The college is an equal partner in the program.

Photo: FABCO
FABTECH students learn on heavy equipment.

Rather than simply pay for scholarships or set up individual apprenticeships, FABTECH is a hybrid of a technical college education and real, hands-on training with FABCO-supplied equipment and expertise. Class time is split between the classroom and the lab, where students have the opportunity to work on real diesel equipment, with tools and equipment supplied by major vendors. Students work toward an associates degree from FVTC, and have a job waiting for them at one of FABCO's several statewide locations.

“The environment that we are in is extremely professional at all times and that leads to less distractions and more learning,” says student Troy Weidemeier. Response has been overwhelming, with applications coming in from across the state. FABTECH graduated its first class of technicians this fall, and Bailey is eager to expand the size of the third class from the tentative 24 students of its first year.

Bernard Amadei

A CAT dealership HR manager who decided the best way to find new diesel-service technicians is through training.

“Bob takes the time to be involved with students on a continual basis, answering questions, participating in group discussions and spending time during lunch chit-chatting,” says Joe Berhausen, FABTECH instructor. “The great thing about his subtle actions is that he leaves the students feeling part of something bigger and they remain excited and passionate to succeed not only in the program but into the workplace as well.”