Ethan Troglin, a senior at Cumberland County High School, works about 30 hours a week at Scott Proffit Landscaping Yard. He helps load trucks with landscape materials, services the equipment and provides customer service to the local business on Genesis Rd.

It’s one step on his journey to a career in heavy equipment mechanics.

“I love equipment, I always have,” said Troglin. “I love working with tools and I’ve always liked working on the equipment and trucks.”

Troglin is earning academic credit for his work at Proffit Landscaping. He is able to leave school for two classes in the afternoon this semester, extending the time he can work. He’s been working at Proffit’s for two years.

Mark Rymer, dispatcher, said, “He’s picked up on everything.”

Rymer said it’s helpful to have that extra set of hands in the workplace a little earlier in the day, and Troglin is a great help to him and the other staff. He’s impressed with Troglin’s work ethic as well as his ability on the job.

“He’s dependable,” Rymer said. “He’s on time, even on Saturdays. He likes to work. It’s very seldom he doesn’t have something he’s working on.

“He helps everybody.”

Troglin appreciates the mentorship he’s received from the other employees at Proffit Landscaping.

“They take time to explain things to me,” he said. “I love this work family. They’ve been so good to me.”

It’s a capstone experience for the student who has taken classes in ag mechanics at school and earned his OSHA 10 certification. Next semester, he will be attending Tennessee College of Applied Technology where he will take early post-secondary classes through a partnership of the school system and TCAT.

Next year, he will enter the Stowers ThinkBIG program at South Georgia Technical College where he will study heavy equipment dealer service technology.

Troglin will spend two years at the school, with a curriculum that includes a paid internship with Stowers Machinery. Upon completion, the company reimburses students for their school tuition, books, and room and board if they work for the company for two years.

To qualify, Troglin had to first be accepted by South Georgia Technical College and meet Stowers Machinery Corporation’s requirements, including placement tests.

It’s a growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% growth in employment of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics from 2020-’30. That includes agricultural production equipment. Nationally, these specially-trained mechanics earn a median pay of $25.66 per hour.

In addition to his school activities, Troglin is vice president of the CCHS FFA Chapter and recently attended the FFA national convention.

Carla Pratt, the work-based learning instructor at CCHS, said gaining hands-on experiencing in their field offers students a competitive advantage in the work place and in seeking additional training.

“I believe work-based learning is a launching pad and a foundation for our students’ future as they utilize the tools and knowledge gained in the classroom and on the job,” Pratt said.

It can also allow students to try out a field before committing time and resources to pursuing it.

“They learn to recognize areas of interest and specialized skills they may have or want to develop,” Pratt said.

She has 25 students working at locations across the community this semester, and a waiting list for students who want to get out and get hands-on experience.

“There’s a big interest for it,” Pratt said. “It’s a privilege for students to be able to participate in this program.”

Robbie Casteel, Career and Technical Education instructional coach, said businesses are contacting the school system for student work placements.

Work-based learning offers cooperative learning experiences, which are paid, and unpaid internships. Students develop soft skills to complement their industry skills.

Pratt said, “We talk to students about being mature, responsible, on time. If they have any issues, we encourage them to talk to their employer. And we can serve as a go-between if they need.”

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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