HANNIBAL — Brandon Dillman knew from a young age he would like to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, working at Hannibal Altorfer, and he soon jumped into a unique opportunity while meeting a growing need for technicians in the field.
Dillman’s grandfather, Donald Akright, worked at the business 36 years, and his father, Aaron Dillman, has been a shop technician for more than 20 years so far. After high school, Dillman applied for a yard facilitator position and they soon found he was quite mechanically adept. Sarah Markham, HR generalist/recruiter, said he was an ideal fit for the ThinkBIG education program and Caterpillar Trial Ten: Tech Test video, which will result in an Associate of Applied Science degree and the chance to highlight his ability to troubleshoot, repair and maintain Caterpillar equipment.
Markham said Caterpillar has had many training sessions in the past, and Trial Ten is a way to involve dealers. The fast-paced competition gives students a chance to perform repairs, troubleshoot problems and perform other hands-on tasks while negotiating a complex obstacle course.
Markham said Caterpillar’s two-year ThinkBIG program sponsors students from heavy equipment dealers. The program consists of eight-week sessions at Illinois Central College in Peoria, Ill., where students learn about different procedures in state-of-the-art career labs. The ThinkBIG program is geared toward heavy equipment technicians, and Markham stressed there is a need for technicians in other divisions like agricultural and rental and power systems — Altorfer currently has 57 job openings for technicians.
“It’s an awesome career path, especially for those who are more mechanically-inclined — for those who think that they like to use their hands more,” Markham said. To have that hands-on learning, this is a perfect opportunity, because their shop is pretty much set up similar to what our shop would look like.”
After each eight-week session, students intern with a senior technician at a store location for eight weeks. After the intern session, they return for the next topic in the school labs. When students complete the program, they receive a degree in applied science. Markham said 95% of interns are hired permanently, and there is also a tuition reimbursement program.
Altorfer is a third-generation company, with 36 locations in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. Markham said the program was a perfect fit for Dillman, who is also a third-generation employee. He knew from the start he wanted to work on or operate Caterpillar equipment for his career.
“I honesty think it’s awesome to be following in their footsteps,” Dillman said. “My dad has been doing this for the past 21 years — and that’s been all my life, so I’ve been around this since I was young. I’ve just loved Cat equipment and everything about it.”
Dillman is in the final semester of instruction, and he has participated in several of the trials. He will graduate May 15, and he remembered how an initial apprehension toward electrical systems turned out to be one of the parts of repair and troubleshooting he enjoys the most.
He said the equipment is complex, with hydraulic systems, sophisticated electronics like GPS and other specialized components that require the specialized training he has received so far. Dillman said it was rewarding when managers gave him opportunities to repair a machine without a mentor.
“When I would fix it and get it done, it felt great knowing that I fixed it alone — it was just an amazing feeling to know that it was fixed,” Dillman said. “I know I have a lot to learn — I’m not the fastest or quickest or smartest by any means — but it’s a great feeling knowing that you fix it.”
Dillman said some people wake up dreading coming to work, but he stressed “I love what I do.”
Altorfer is planning a tuition reimbursement program for technicians in the agriculture sector, too. Markham said students can enroll in a diesel mechanics program in area community colleges.
More information about the Altorfer ThinkBIG program is available by visiting www.altorfer.com/contact-us/careers/thinkbig-internship-program/ or calling 309-694-5716. To view details about the Tech Test, visit https://www.altorfer.com/techtest/. Hannibal Altorfer Cat can be reached at 573-221-8600.