HUMPHREY, Neb. – It’s not just the athletes whose signings with colleges are raising eyebrows.
Spencer Babel, a senior at St. Francis High School in Humphrey, recently signed to participate in a Registered Apprenticeship Program to train as a diesel mechanic. The program is a partnership between Mitchell Equipment and Northeast Community College that began in 2023.
Through the apprenticeship program, Babel will receive paid full-time employment at Mitchell Equipment and attend a series of related courses at Northeast Community College. Classes will be three days per week during the summer, followed by shorter quarterly bootcamps for the remainder of the year. Mitchell Equipment provides apprentices with paid tuition, tools and transportation to class. Time spent in the classroom will also be paid as working hours.
“This year we have five apprentices in the program – one at the Humphrey store and four in Atkinson – and feedback has been very positive,” said Ryan Hillen, Parts & Service Manager at Mitchell Equipment in Humphrey. “It’s a great opportunity for new employees to receive training but come back and apply that knowledge right away on-the-job.”
Babel said he enjoys working hands-on versus being in the classroom full-time.
“I started working with trucks for about a year before starting at Mitchell Equipment,” Babel said. “Mitchell Equipment has been really good to work with, and allow me to take care of livestock at home along with working.”
Babel has been working since April 2023, including work release his senior year and full-time summer 2023.
“Northeast developed this apprenticeship to help area employers train new talent, and we’ve had success thanks to great industry partners including Mitchell Equipment,” said Kimberly Andersen, apprenticeship director at Northeast Community College. “The apprenticeship training model includes classroom learning that is linked with paid employment and on-the-job training. This gives apprentices the opportunity to apply skills in the real world while earning a paycheck. It also provides companies with an employee who learns directly using their exact equipment and procedures.”
After completing the three-year apprenticeship, Babel will receive a Registered Apprenticeship certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor.
“We’re very excited to have Spencer in the apprenticeship program to continue his work and education,” said Doug Hartman, shop foreman at Mitchell Equipment. Hartman will also serve as Babel’s apprenticeship program mentor, a critical role in which he will provide coaching and essential on-the-job training.
“Spencer is a good example of someone in high school who has ‘done it.’ His hands-on experience makes us comfortable putting him in the apprenticeship and full-time work,” Hartman said.
Apprenticeship programs include paid employment, so they can be a fit for both new high school graduates and adults looking to make a career move while sustaining a paycheck. For Babel, the real-world work experience made this program appealing.
“Mitchell Equipment has been good to work with, and I really enjoy being hands-on at work versus full-time in the classroom,” he said.
Currently, Northeast Community College offers eight apprenticeship pathways in partnership with several regional companies. Anyone interested in becoming an apprentice or partnering employer is encouraged to contact Kim Andersen, apprenticeship director, at 402-844-7121 or email email@example.com.
Diesel Apprenticeship Signing cutline
Spencer Babel (seated on the right) signs an application to enroll in the Ag Diesel Mechanic apprenticeship program with Mitchell Equipment and Northeast Community College. Also pictured are (seated on the left) Tanya Babel, Spencer’s Mom; (standing left to right) Henry Goeden and Kimberly Andersen with Northeast Community College, Jennifer Dunn with St. Francis High School, Doug Hartman and Ryan Hillen with Mitchell Equipment. (Northeast Community College)