A major, long-standing farm equipment dealership is partnering with Havre’s university to make certain its students receive the best training possible in their fields.
At a three-hour event at Montana State University-Northern Thursday, the implement dealership Torgerson’s LLC presented Northern’s College of Technical Sciences with a six-month loan of five new pieces of Case International Harvester equipment worth more than $1 million, with new pieces to be rotated in for the next half-year.
During the initial presentation, Northern’s administration and professors as well as representatives of Torgerson’s said the loan will help the students, help the university, help Torgerson’s, and help the industry and the region in general.
“For us to partner, we feel it’s a privilege to give you guys opportunities back in Montana and really grow this region. It’s a great area and we think in a partnership we can do a lot, ” Torgerson’s General Manager Brion Torgerson told the students packed into Hensler Auditorium in the Applied Technology Center at the university.
He said the company has a long history on the Hi-Line, and a long relationship with Northern. The company was founded in Ethridge, east of Cut Bank in Toole County, and now has expanded to include locations in Havre, Great Falls, Billings, Lewistown and Denton.
“It’s really cool for us as a company, ” Torgerson said. “We started in 1912. We’re local, Hi-Line local. We’ve expanded throughout (the state,) but really it’s about you as students, getting an opportunity back here in Montana. ”
He said the man who started working on the partnership with Northern, corporate sales manager Jed Bengtson, a Northern graduate, is an example of a Northern success story and its partnership with industry.
“He’s actually done quite well with us, he’s actually a testament from coming out of Northern, coming into a business, (starting) at ground level and working his way up, and he’s now in charge of all sales at Torgerson’s, ” Torgerson said.
Caralee Fortin of Hays, a sophomore in the diesel technology program, said before the event started that having the equipment will make a huge difference.
“We will have the ability to get experience and knowledge of the newest systems coming out …, ” Fortin said, adding that it will increase the already incredible immense success of the programs. She said even without the new Case IH tractors to work on, the diesel program already has a 98 percent job placement rate. Companies are prospecting the program’s students have taken, offering them jobs, by their junior year, she said.
“Jobs come to us, we don’t have to look for jobs, ” Fortin said.
Greg Kegel, dean of Northern’s College of Technical Sciences, said during the presentation that the equipment solves one of the biggest problems — keeping up with the latest technology.
“It’s like having a rolling laboratory to have a piece of equipment like that, but it’s not just the equipment, ” he said. “It’s the fact that it’s the latest, greatest technology. A lot of the stuff that we use in the classrooms has aged, and it’s very difficult to get operating funds to purchase state-of-the-art stuff to work on, and so when we get an arrangement like this where we’re rotating in equipment … it’s just huge for our program. ”
Kegel said the equipment, three tractors, a Patriot sprayer and a utility vehicle, will be used in classes and programs over the next months. Then, Northern will return the equipment and take a different selection to use in the classes.
Greg Clouse, head of Northern’s diesel technology program, said the partnership shows an investment. While students are seeing the cost of education rise, Clouse said, they are making an investment.
“Each one of you are making an investment in your work career, in your education, and, by golly, I look at our administration, it’s behind us 100 percent. I look at industry, which is jumping in and getting behind us, they are also investing in you, too, ” Clouse said.
Wayne Boysun, who teaches in the automotive technology and ag mechanics programs, said the equipment will allow the university to set curriculum that teaches students exactly what the industry is looking for. He heard an advertisement from Torgerson’s looking for a technician with exactly the skills Northern now will be able to teach its students, he said.
“It’s a tool for us, ” he said. “As an instructor, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this available to us. ”
Tom Welch, who teaches in the agriculture techonology program at Northern, said the need to keep up with the technology is crucial.
“Agriculture is undergoing a revolution, folks, probably as significant as the move from the horse to the tractor, he said. “Seriously, this revolution in technology, with precision agriculture, is just massive. (With this equipment), we have the opportunity to be engaged with that.
“You get your hands-on things, you engage students, and learning just leapfrogs, ” Welch added.