Aspiring diesel mechanic earns high-level certifications at an early age

Aspiring diesel mechanic earns high-level certifications at an early age
Posted on 03/02/2017
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Morgan Sammons has always known she wanted to work with her hands, but this second year student at NTC Pryor never expected to find herself enrolled in the Diesel and Heavy Equipment Program at Northeast Tech.

"I was big into ag at my school, on the veterinary science team and planning to be a vet like my grandma,” Sammons said. “I was bound and determined that’s what I wanted to do, but then I went on the Sophomore Showcase.”

The event that changed Sammons’ career path is an annual tour hosted by all four NTC Campuses. All the sophomore students from each county gather at their local NTC Campus for a tour of the facilities and programs.

“Honestly, I came on the showcase and thought I wanted welding,” Sammons said. “But after talking with Mr. Peper at the interview, he convinced me to give diesel a try. My mom was a crane operator, my dad is a pipeline operator, my grandpa owned a tire shop, we live on a farm – I grew up on equipment. I had a basic knowledge coming into the class, and Mr. Peper saw my potential.”

Two years later, and with three months still left in the school year, Sammons has already completed all four Automotive Service Excellence certifications available through the program. She’s also earned two additional certifications on her own time and expense, one of which is for an air conditioning technology that has yet to make its way into the consumer market.

“She’s an exceptionally quick learner,” said NTC Diesel and Heavy Equipment Repair Instructor Trent Peper. “She challenges me as an instructor because she’s always asking, ‘why’ and ‘how.’ She’s one of my three go-to students when I need to make sure something gets done, and gets done right.”

Sammons is already using her training on the job at O-Reilly’s Auto Parts in Claremore, but her long term goals include a year of training at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Dallas on her way to becoming a field mechanic for Caterpillar.

“I don’t want to be cooped up in a shop,” Sammons said. “A field mechanic has a service truck and responds to calls wherever the job is – you bring your knowledge and tools to diagnose and fix the problem. I want to meet new people and see new places, and I can do that as a field mechanic.”

Peper has no doubt Sammons will achieve that goal and anything else she sets her sights on.

“Fields mechanics are like MacGyver, and they easily make $65,000 or more a year. That includes long hours and travel, but the girl likes to work,” said Peper. “Morgan is so smart she can go to work as a field mechanic, and if she gets tired of it, she can switch gears into sales, management, anything really. The market for females in this industry is wide open.”

The lone female in a shop full of guys, Sammons doesn’t let that giver her cause to doubt her career choice, and she actively tries to recruit other girls to the trade.

“I helped with interviewing the new students this year, and only two girls came for interview. One was shy so I encouraged her not to let the boys get to her,” Sammons said. “We have to earn their trust, and if we’re willing to learn, we will. You can’t let their doubts get to you or you'll start doubting yourself.”

Apart from encouraging next year’s class of NTC hopefuls, Sammons is also working to impact future students. She volunteered to host a tour and presentation for a local troop of Girl Scouts based in Claremore, and her application to UTI has resulted in that organization’s continued interest in recruiting students from NTC.

“Whether you have a basic knowledge or know nothing about engines, you can do well in this class,” Sammons said. “If you have the will and the want to Mr. Peper’s willing to teach you anything and everything you want to know.” 

Sammons will complete her training at NTC in May, but Peper jokingly threatens to fail her just to keep her around the shop.

“I’m going to miss her,” Peper said. “Usually after two years, I’m ready for them to move on, but not Morgan. She’s been a joy to teach. Give her five years and you watch – she’ll be running her own operation and hiring our students.” 

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