Craig Greenwood, service manager for the Hoopeston, Ill., store, believes Birkey’s commitment to education also sets it apart from its competition. The dealership has an ongoing partnership with Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., to develop the next generation of techs.
Originally, they followed a 2-year program that developed general diesel technicians who learned by working on a variety of equipment and manufacturers. This past fall, the dealership began a new program with the community college that develops a direct pipeline of specialized graduates.
In the program, students learn specifically on CNH electronics and machinery, focusing on certain tractor models. Birkey’s sponsors the students, providing them with tools. The students then have an obligation to work with Birkey’s for a 16-week trial period. Greenwood sees a distinct advantage when a student already knows the diagnostics and CNH machinery before coming to the dealership.
“It’s hard to say, but you don’t need the old guy that could stand beside an M tractor and tell what’s wrong with it by listening to how it sounds,” he says. “Now you need people who can get on the computer, hook it up to the tractor and figure out what’s wrong with it.”
Birkey’s actively recruits potential students for these programs through marketing efforts in its stores.
Greenwood also credits the company’s long-term commitment to technical training to the talent level of its current technicians. Each year during the off-seasons, the dealership sends each tech off-site to 1- or 2-week long courses that cover Case IH or New Holland machinery. Management evaluates technician shortcomings, and provides addition training as necessary.
Web-based training from Case also is becoming an important tool for Birkey’s to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of techs. The program evaluates where techs need to improve.
“Bringing in the right techs and training them have been the biggest things in improving the quality of our service,” says Greenwood. “When we didn’t have the intern or scholarship programs, too often we would get guys who had been fired from other places. We can have a building, equipment and the trucks, but if you don’t have technicians who can do the work, then it’s all for nil.”