Diesel conference brings industry figures to Northern
Montana State University-Northern is, for a second year, playing host to the Northwest Diesel Instructors Conference.
Despite the name's indication, the conference draws not only instructors, but students and representatives from companies in diesel-related fields from across the region.
Greg Kegel, dean of Northern's College of Technical Sciences, said the conference had more than 100 people sign up this year.
"We have people from dealerships, farmers, corporate people. We let anybody come, " Kegel said. "We have a guy from Seward, Alaska. I think he wins the farthest distance award. "
These registrants have filled rooms in MSU-N's Applied Technology Center to hear from a dozen speakers, from organizations like Chevron Corp., Caterpillar and Kiewit.
Northern hosted the conference last year as well.
Kegel said last year's conference went so well, the organizers insisted they host again, making Northern one of only three schools to host the conference, that travels around northwest campuses, more than once in its nearly 20-year history.
"It's an honor to be considered, " Kegel said, as the conference brings the industry's focus to Havre.
That exposure helps Northern accomplish its goal, as Kegel states it, to "take a kid and turn them into a commodity. "
Companies that come to Havre and see the programs are the same ones that end up flooding Northern graduates with job offers.
Paul Krezelak, from Mac Tools, had a table set up for the conference. He said he comes to Northern now, and as students show up in the fall, to build relationships with what will be his future customers.
"We get a chance to see the students here, " Krezelak said. "We take care of the college, and they take care of us. "
Bringing instructors to campus, and being involved with other regional diesel programs, also helps bring students into Northern's program.
Kegel said that since last year's hosting, Northern's unique four-year diesel program drew at least 20 students from other communities' two-year programs.
Ed Solum, from Spokane Community College, said he's impressed.
"They do a good job of putting this on, " Solum said. "It's a good opportunity to network with other diesel instructors. "
Kegel has heard similar praise from others in the industry.
"I was talking to a guy from John Deere who's been at conferences like this in Vegas and all over, " Kegel said.
"He said, 'This is one of the best shows I've ever been to. '"