HASTINGS, Neb. — There's high demand for people who can fix the machinery that runs Nebraska's number one industry.

Instructors at Central Community College in Hastings said their Diesel Technology Program has grown about 10 percent every year for the last decade, but graduates have yet to meet the demand for workers.

"Even though I have 92 students in the program right now. I could probably place another 20 on top of that," said Eric Kothe, a diesel instructor.

It's a need combine manufacturer Case IH is seeing.

"Our dealer base is telling us that they need competent technicians," said Kelly Burgess, Case IH new product quality.

So, when a new 7230 combine couldn't be delivered in perfect condition to a customer, it was instead dropped off at CCC free of charge.

With a machine like this running around $300,000, it's not something a school like Central Community College can afford alone.

"We're looking to supply this institution with the training aids they need to be effective in training their technicians that will go to the field and ultimately service our customers," said Burgess.

"They can actually physically take it apart and work on it, figure out how things work," said Kothe. 

He said, in the diesel technology field, there is no substitute for hands-on training.

Local dealerships like Titan Machinery said they've had a lot of sales of new equipment this year and they need people who know the latest technology.

"The farmers that are buying a new combine like this don't want to have any down time, so we want to have good trained technicians so if there is an issue we can get the problem resolved, get the customer back in the field as soon as we can," said Dale Spartz, the store manager of Hastings' Titan Machinery.

To keep those technicians in Nebraska, Spartz's store has been sponsoring students like Troy Koziol for about 20 years, helping with tuition, tools and eventually a job.

Koziol, a Grand Island native, said he can't wait to get inside the new combine.

"We don't have much Case equipment, so to be something that I'll be working on out in the field is a blessing," he said.

The Diesel Technology Program will use the gift for now, but they'll have to share it with CCC's Precision Ag Program once it is implemented.