HCET Student Elected SkillsUSA State Office Team Treasurer

Brad Heinz hits his stride as a student, mechanic and ambassador.

Brad Heinz

Brad Heinz

Brad Heinz, a student in the Heavy Construction Equipment Technology program at Dakota County Technical College, was elected treasurer of the SkillsUSA Minnesota State Office Team during the Officer Training and Board of Director’s Strategic Planning Conference in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, on the weekend of January 12-13, 2008.

Heinz grew up on a 2,200-acre crop farm inCorcoran, Minnesota , a rural community of 6,000 about 16 miles northwest of Minneapolis. He learned early in life that he had an aptitude for all things mechanical.

“Living on a farm means working with machinery,” Heinz said. “I picked up my equipment maintenance skills from my dad and uncle. Even as a kid, I knew that I liked working with my hands.”

Heinz took his proficiency as a mechanic to the next level when he went to work for C.S. McCrossan Inc., a contractor in Maple Grove that specializes in highway, street, bridge and tunnel construction.

“I started in the shop pushing a broom and cleaning up,” Heinz said. “After a while, I was given the chance to work on a few things. Once I showed what I could do, I became the assistant to a 75-year-old mechanic who really knew his stuff.”

When Heinz first decided to tackle higher education, he briefly considered architecture as a career. “I discovered right away that architecture wasn’t my cup of tea,” he said. “I’m not an artsy person so I didn’t take to all the drawing. I switched to heavy construction equipment technology because I like the idea of working in a shop or outdoors on job sites.”

Heinz searched far and wide for a technical college with a Heavy Construction Equipment Technology program and soon discovered that there are very few in Minnesota. He selected DCTC because he was impressed by the program’s superb facility and longstanding partnership with Ziegler Cat, one of the largest and most successful Caterpillar dealerships in the United States.

“I’m one of only eight students in the program to earn a Ziegler Cat internship,” Heinz said. “When I graduate with my A.A.S. degree after fall semester 2008, I hope to land a full-time job with Ziegler. My long-term goal is to become a field service mechanic, but that takes time. You have to gain lots of experience and prove yourself on the job while demonstrating accurate troubleshooting ability.”

In the meantime, Heinz is expanding his knowledge base by picking up valuable leadership, communication and time management skills as a college-level member ofSkillsUSA, a national nonprofit organization that works to advance the skill level of the American workforce through partnerships with students, teachers and industry representatives.

One of seven college/postsecondary officers on the State Office Team, Heinz looks forward to participating in many SkillsUSA events. “SkillsUSA is a great organization,” he said. “As treasurer, I will act as an ambassador and travel all over Minnesota. The position gives me the opportunity to interact with people, learn important skills, and have fun at the same time.”

Heinz (right) working on 3126 CAT

Heinz (right) working on 3126 CAT

Dan Ruzicka, the first-year instructor in the college’s HCET program, believes that SkillsUSA gives his students a tremendous advantage. “Our industry wants our students in SkillsUSA,” he said. “The organization provides outstanding training opportunities and brings participating schools up to a standard level.”

“Brad’s a good student,” Ruzicka continued. “When he seeks employment, his experience as a SkillsUSA state officer will be a great notch in his belt.”

Jennifer Polz, state executive director of SkillsUSA, reported that serving as a state officer will allow Heinz to become more motivated as an individual and as a leader. “Career-wise, being a state officer will give Brad all the qualities he needs to get the job done in his place of employment,” Polz said. “He will be trained in such qualities as leadership, teamwork, self-confidence, communications and pride in one’s work.”

Polz went on to say that Heinz and his fellow students in SkillsUSA are preparing themselves to join the modern American labor pool as balanced, determined and exceptionally skilled workers.

Heinz brings his work ethic to the classroom and studies hard to master engine systems and hydraulics, the meat and potatoes of heavy equipment. He also knows that the field of his dreams offers a high standard of living.

“Excellent pay and benefits are the main reasons I chose to get my degree in heavy construction equipment technology,” Heinz said. “Heavy equipment mechanics make good money. Even though my name is spelled the same, I’m pretty sure I’m not the secret heir to a ketchup fortune.”

Graduates of DCTC’s Heavy Construction Equipment Technology program are prepared to work as expert mechanics with heavy equipment dealers and contractors. Other major employers include government agencies as well as roadway and bridge construction companies.

Working at field sites or in shops, construction mechanics use precision tools to perform maintenance and repairs on high-tech construction equipment such as loaders, scrapers, crawlers, and motor graders to name a few. They work on advanced hydraulic, hydrostatic, engine, electrical, mechanical, and onboard computer systems.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy equipment mechanics who have completed postsecondary training programs will find excellent employment opportunities through the year 2016. Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development reports that the median hourly wage for mobile heavy equipment mechanics in the seven-county metro area topped $24 in 2007 with the highest earners making more than $30 an hour.