Can a broken weed trimmer inspire a career?
For Justin Petersen, the answer is yes. His father gave up trying to make an old trimmer start, and he bought a new one, leaving the broken one in the shed. Justin spent an afternoon taking it apart, cleaning it and—most importantly—putting it back together and making it work. He was just 13.
Now, six years later, Justin has parlayed that interest in fixing machines into a career path. He’s currently studying Farm Equipment and Diesel Technology at Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg, Iowa. And to help him with his goal, he has received a scholarship from the Equipment Dealers Foundation, which has been matched by his local dealership in Irwin, Iowa, Robinson Implement, Inc.. “I love it at school, and am so appreciative of the scholarship,” says Justin. “It has definitely helped me with my tuition, books, tools and fees.”
Justin has been working at Robinson Implement since the day after he turned 16. But his history with the dealership goes back even farther. Growing up, he went there with his grandfather, Ken Hansen, who has a local farm. “I became interested in farm equipment and diesel tractors while helping my grandpa,” says Justin. “He always took the time to talk to me about what he was doing and how things worked. And he encouraged me by having me work on his tractors and equipment.”
There Will Always Be a Need
Now, school takes Justin about two-and-a-half hours away from where he grew up in Elk Horn, Iowa. He’s enjoying his coursework, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. Class starts at 6:30 AM, and then after breakfast, they have hands-on work in the shop. That leaves the afternoon open for an internship or other work. Justin is lucky that Robinson Implement also has a dealership in nearby Pocahontas, and so he’s able to work there in the afternoons. “I love what I’m doing,” he says, “whether it’s working on tractors, servicing combines or pulling motors. It’s kind of like solving one big puzzle,”
After he graduates with an Associates Degree, Justin plans on returning to Elk Horn and to continue working at Robinson Implement. He knows that both his career choice and returning to a small town is the exact right fit for him. He also encourages others that may be interested in this career to look into it. “There is always going to be a need for this trade. They can’t make machines that will take a tire off, get inside and do what needs to be done,” he says.
About the Scholarship
The Equipment Dealers Foundation (EDF) was established in 1988 to provide scholarship funding to help meet the industry’s needs for trained individuals. Since then, the EDF has continued to focus on workforce development initiatives that benefit our industry. Most recently it launched Technicians for Tomorrow, an awareness campaign designed to educate parents and teachers about the benefits of a career as an equipment technician for their children and students. EDF also provides temporary assistance for dealerships and its employees affected by natural disasters. Learn more about EDF here.