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Dairy to Diesel: Career Change Simple with Rural Mn CEP Photo

Dairy to Diesel: Career Change Simple with Rural Mn CEP

The average jobseeker may find it difficult making a connection between dairy farmer and diesel mechanic. For Michael Anez, however, it was a natural transition.

“We were always working with the mechanics who came to work on the tractors at our dairy farm,” said Anez. “They convinced me to look into becoming a diesel mechanic.”

That is exactly what Anez is after completing the diesel mechanic program at Central Lakes College (CLC) in Staples. In about one year, with a little help from the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (CEP), Anez went from working on a dairy farm to working on agricultural equipment at Midwest Machinery in his hometown of Little Falls.

“I love what I am doing, mostly because everyday day is never the same,” he said.

Becoming a Mechanic

Anez had been in the dairy industry in Little Falls when he quit his job to start the 11-month program at CLC in the fall of 2020. He went through the Diesel Equipment Technician Associate of Applied Science Degree program, which beyond the diploma program, includes a commercial driver's license training and 15 credits of general education courses. Upon completion, students are ready for careers in maintenance, repair and diagnostics of a broad range of diesel equipment.

Anez was hired at Midwest Machinery in July, which was the company he targeted when he first began the CLC program because he knew they were hiring and it allowed him to stay in agriculture.

“It has been extremely rewarding, with the work never the same, repairing equipment farmers bring in, from tractors to skid loaders,” he said. “I also get to set up new equipment before we deliver it.”

Rural Minnesota CEP Helps

Anez may have known where he wanted to go to school, the program he wished to complete and even the company he hoped to work for, but covering tuition was a little unknown. He learned about how Rural Minnesota CEP could help students after he was in the CLC program. He had been working with staff on financial aid, as he began to feel the stress of that financial burden. 

“Rural Minnesota CEP introduced me to available grants that would allow me to pay for school without going into debt, which I had been planning to do,” said Anez. “My representative, Karla Richardson was fantastic, routinely reaching out to me to keep me on task, which made the whole grant process very smooth.”

But Anez was even more grateful for assistance he never imagined was available.

“I would never have thought I could get assistance with buying the tools I need as a diesel mechanic, but with their help, I was able to get everything I needed right away,” he said. “They are very expensive and numerous, because some are needed to complete the classes, while some are specific tools required to do a mechanics job well, like a larger set of sockets. And in order to be prepared for any job, we need to have both standard and metric tools.”

Building his Expertise

Prior to beginning the CLC program, he had thought of starting his own dairy farm, but worried about his future with the difficulty of competing with big dairy companies. Now, in just over a year, Anez has switched careers and is eagerly looking forward to building his expertise as a diesel mechanic. He understands that will take time, with a lot to learn across all the unique features of many types of equipment. But he feels up to that task, confident he will be making the same service calls other mechanics made for him while he was in the dairy industry. His training and experience gives him the confidence to jump right in and fix all kinds of equipment.

“I would like to be that guy who is an expert in his field,” he said. “And I do not have to leave the dairy industry behind, as I am thinking about raising cattle on the side like my father did when I was growing up, raising heifer calves for larger dairy companies.”

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