Hand-in-hand community workforce education

Matheny Motors recently loaned Washington State Community College a 2018 Freightliner Cascadia that students use for hands-on learning. (From left) Joe Nutter, WSCC auto/diesel program director; Brenda Kornmiller, dean of business, engineering, industrial technologies and workforce development; Jeff Starkey, auto/diesel assistant professor; and Matheny Motors owner Mike Matheny. (Photo: WSCC)

A decades-old friendship gave way to a partnership that has brought benefit to Ohio’s Washington State Community College, its students, a local business and the community.

More than 35 years ago, Matheny Motors and WSCC began collaborating. In the beginning, it was simply students visiting the garage of Matheny Truck Center in Mineral Wells, but it quickly became more.

The partnership started thanks to the friendship between WSCC auto/diesel instructor Jack Wilson and Matheny Motors owner Mike Matheny, who have known each other since childhood. Wilson realized his students could benefit from the exposure to his friend’s garage.

“Once we visited Matheny Motors a few times, the partnership took off,” said Joe Nutter, director of WSCC’s auto/diesel program. “Now we do field trips to Matheny Motors about two times a year.”

In addition to the hands-on visits to the Matheny Truck Center, the partnership has grown to include the dealership loaning the college new commercial trucks for students to use in class. In fact, in October, Matheny Motors loaned a new $130,000 2018 Freightliner Cascadia to the program.

“We use it for just about every class that we have,” Nutter said. “We hook scan tools up to it and students check for codes so that they can learn about the engine, fuel systems and brakes.”

Mike Matheny said that for the past 10 to 15 years they’ve tried to bring a new truck several times a year and leave it for a few weeks at a time for students to learn from and do demonstrations on.

Seeking technicians

With the rising number of technicians retiring, the need for trained technicians has been on the rise in order to fill the gap.

“Our enrollment is going up, but the demand is so great that we can’t supply enough students to meet the need for technicians,” Nutter said. “Matheny Motors has always been looking to help us train better technicians.”

Matheny, who has also served on the WSCC advisory board for more than 15 years, wants to be involved in the college and prepare students for their future careers. On any given year, one to four WSCC students can shadow employees at different Matheny Motors locations. Students spend time each week shadowing technicians and mechanics in the heavy-duty shop or light-duty part of the business.

“WSCC students come to us very prepared and we just finish polishing the stone, so to speak,” Matheny said. “They come in with a broad knowledge and we try to give them more detailed information. It’s important to us because these students live close to our dealerships, so they don’t have to travel as far to do training.”

Matheny added that WSCC students are a qualified and close resource for the company to hire new employees from rather than sourcing from locations farther away. “For some employees, moving to a different city is a concern. So being able to hire new employees locally has been a convenience for them and for us.”

He added that Matheny Motors has hired about a dozen WSCC graduates who have worked in various departments in the recent years.

“The instructors in the Auto/Diesel program at WSCC have been very accommodating and are invested in their jobs,” Matheny said. “The enthusiasm they maintain reflects in their students and makes them great employees at Matheny Motors.”

About the Author

Missy Richman
is a communications support specialist at Washington State Community College in Ohio.