Aaron Balcom grew up in a ranching community around Cheyenne, Wyo. and found a great sense of pride being a part of it. And while he knew that ranching wasn’t his future, he did want to settle down in a small town and work in agriculture. That’s why studying in the John Deer Ag Tech program is a perfect fit for him.
He enjoys the challenge of his new line of work: “I knew that I had to find a career that would allow me to be in agriculture, was mentally stimulating and physically demanding, so this program was the obvious option for me.”
Now in his second year of the two-year program, he admits that there isn’t anything easy about it. “It’s a tough school, informative, hard and fast-paced with high expectations,” he says. Despite the rigors of the program, and working full-time to support himself and to pay for his schooling, he is thriving.
“What I enjoy the most is the electrical and computer diagnostic part. The diagnostic troubleshooting is complex, but that’s what intrigues me,” he says. And he also knows that if he gets stuck while working on equipment, he can asked the experienced technicians he works with at his sponsoring dealership 21st Century Equipment in Sidney, Neb. Part of his schooling involves an internship at the dealership, under the tutelage of these mentors.
And for Aaron, working and being plugged into the base of knowledge and experience at 21st Century Equipment has been invaluable. “I had the book knowledge from my classes, but it was at the dealership that everything started clicking,” he says. “That was the lightbulb moment for me—working with these fantastic technicians reinforced all the knowledge that I learned, but didn’t understand.”
To help him finish his Associates of Applied Science degree through the John Deere program at Southeast Community College in in Milford, Neb., he has received a scholarship from the Equipment Dealers Foundation, which has been matched by 21st Century Equipment. “I’m thankful for the scholarship,” Aaron says. “The extra support means I can do better in my classes—I can spend more time studying, instead of working. This scholarship will allow me to finish strong.”
Brent McArtor, the service manager at 21st Century Equipment, speaks highly of Aaron and is looking forward to working with him through his final coop experience. “He’s a hard-working individual, and we are truly blessed to have him on our team,” says Stephanie Barrett, JDAT recruiter for the company.
A Career You Can Try On
Aaron says that others who may be interested in a similar career path should definitely check it out. Before being sponsored for the program, a prospective student would first spend several months as an intern at a dealership. “Most 18-year-olds don’t have a solid plan, so this would give them time to see if the fit was right,” he says. Aaron also suggests spending time looking for the right dealership, advising, “don’t just choose one that’s close to home without checking farther afield.”
When he’s finished with his schooling at the beginning of March next year, Aaron is looking forward to getting back to the western part of Nebraska and working on his own projects at the dealership. “The people I work with are some of the best in the world, and I’m also excited that I’ve found a career, not just a job,” he says.
About the Scholarship
The EDF was established in 1988 to provide scholarship funding to help meet the industry’s needs for trained individuals. EDF also provides temporary assistance for dealerships and its employees affected by natural disasters. Learn more about EDF here.