• 73°

SGTC John Deere Tech graduate featured on podcast

AMERICUS – South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) 2018 John Deere Agricultural Technology graduate Austin Westbook of Malone, FL, was featured on a Field Rows podcast by Jim McArthur talking about his time at SGTC and describing the life of a John Deere mechanic.  The podcast can be heard at: https://www.fieldrows.com/podcast/episode/4d3a2c21/the-life-of-a-john-deere-mechanic.

Jim McArthur of Field Rows was born and raised on a Peanut and Cotton farm in Malone, Fl.  Although he was raised on a farm and enjoyed farming, his true passion was making videos and music.  Field Rows is his way of merging his farming practices with his love of making videos and music.  Field Rows is all about Peanut and Cotton farming in the southeast.

SGTC graduate Austin Westbook grew up in Malone, FL, where Jim McArthur is located.  He has been working as a John Deere mechanic for SunSouth in Dothan, AL, for nearly five years.  He learned to work on machinery beginning at a young age with his father and grandfather, but not on tractors and big machinery.

“I knew I wanted to be a mechanic, but I wanted to specialize in something.  I liked diesel and I looked around and saw there was a Caterpillar and a John Deere specialization.  I liked the thought of working on tractors more than construction equipment so I chose John Deere,” said Westbrook.  “I had a lot of FFA experience and when I went and talked with SunSouth they liked that.  I was able to start working with them while I was still in high school.  They started me off sweeping the floors and then gradually began to let me help with small jobs. After high school graduation, they asked me to enroll at South Georgia Technical College.”

Westbrook enrolled in the John Deere Ag Technology program at South Georgia Technical College and lived in on-campus housing while pursuing an associate degree.  During those two years, he attended classes for eight weeks of each semester and returned to his SunSouth dealer for the remaining eight weeks to put the skills learned in the classroom into practice in the dealer’s shop.  The students alternate every eight weeks until they have completed all the required courses and skills for an associate degree in Agriculture Technology.

SGTC offers students the “Complete College Experience” with on-campus, housing, cafeteria, intercollegiate athletics, and award-winning student clubs and organizations in addition to the outstanding academics.

Westbrook’s class had 23 other John Deere Ag Technology students in training.  Not many of those students had already been working for a dealer before enrolling in college.  Some of the students in his class had never driven a tractor before enrolling.

“This is basically a learn while you earn type career,” said Westbrook.  “We are working for John Deere and earning a paycheck while we are also getting college credit.  We get to apply the skills we learned in the classroom to the real world each semester.  I loved it.”

After graduation from South Georgia Technical College Westbrook became one of the youngest road technicians for SunSouth at age 20.  “My boss called me and told me to come pick up my truck after graduation.  I thought he was kidding.  I love being a road technician.  With the truck I am able to go to where there is a problem.  That may be to a field or a farmer’s shop, but I can help them where they are.”   His road truck is equipped with vises, tools, parts, lifts, welder, torches, a thermal imager, and more.  “Everything we need to do a service or repair we try to keep on the truck,” said Westbrook, “because it is important to keep the farmers up and running.”

To enroll in the South Georgia Technical College Ag Technology program, students must be sponsored by a John Deere Dealer.  The students spend eight weeks on campus in classrooms and labs learning specific objectives, then work with a dealer for eight weeks to put their knowledge to work in a dealer setting.  The students return to the college for another eight weeks and repeat the pattern during the five-semester program.

Students can earn a two-year associate of applied science degree in Agricultural Technology while partnering with John Deere agriculture and turf equipment dealers across the Southeastern portion of the United States for a career as a John Deere technician.  Studies indicate that there is a critical shortage of technicians in this field and the John Deere TECH partnership helps satisfy this need.

Students in the South Georgia Technical College Agricultural Technology program are enrolled in general education courses, but students also train and become John Deere certified in Electrical and Hydraulic systems as well as John Deere’s computer based diagnostic tool, Service ADVISOR™. Students utilize John Deere equipment, training components, and computer diagnostic tools to understand what makes equipment run. Students will also spend time understanding engines, drive trains, and product applications for a variety of agriculture and turf machinery.

The instructors for the program at SGTC are Matthew Burks, mburks@southgatech.edu,  and Wayne Peck, wpeck@southgatech.edu.  For more information about the Agricultural Technology program, visit www.southgatech.edu, or call 229.931.2394 or 229.931.2401.

South Georgia Technical College is currently accepting applications for Fall Semester.  Classes begin August 18th.  For more information or to apply at South Georgia Tech, visit www.southgatech.edu or contact Admissions Director Candie Walters at cwalters@southgatech.edu or 229-931-2394.  To enroll at the Crisp County Campus contact Katrice Taylor at ktaylor@southgatech.edu or contact the admissions office at 229-271-4040.