FSCC Deere program settles into new home

Saturday, December 2, 2017
The former National Guard armory building, now the east campus of Fort Scott Community College, houses the John Deere Technician Training program.
Jason E. Silvers/Tribune

A Fort Scott Community College program that teaches students to be John Deere technicians has been up and running at its new location on the college’s local campus.

The two-year program provides a mixture of learning settings - classroom, laboratory and internships at a John Deere dealership - as students work toward an associate of applied science degree. Earlier this year, the program moved from its previous location in Frontenac.

The program, which currently has 23 students, makes use of space on the college’s east campus, which is the former National Guard armory the city had been leasing to the college. And by the start of the new year, college officials hope to make use of a new 48-by-100-foot metal building under construction on the east campus for the John Deere program.

“It’s awesome,” Kent Aikin, lead instructor, said of the move and new building. “It’s a huge upgrade. That old building (in Frontenac) was falling apart. It was kind of a blessing for us to leave. And the potential of this new building is great. The interest in school now has doubled, as well as student interest and tours.”

According to the FSCC website, the John Deere program “provides students with quality, hands-on training and real-world experience. Through the program, students learn how to troubleshoot, service, repair and rebuild John Deere equipment.”

Aikin said the program involves a combination of “50-50” classroom and hands-on learning, adding “every kid learns differently.” During the program, students spend 40 hours a week for eight weeks completing two internships at a John Deere dealership.

“They’re paired with someone to help mentor,” he said. “We can simulate life-like experiences here, but it’s not as good as real world. We provide a great foundation to learn from.”

Aikin said the new building under construction on the east campus will house larger equipment such as combines and tractors. Students and instructors use the old armory building for classroom learning and technical training on smaller machines. The other instructor for the program is Dale Griffiths.

“Everything is electronic here,” he said.

The last stage of the program involves testing to make sure students can diagnose problems with equipment and machinery. Aikin said 90 percent of students who graduate from the program will get a job after graduation. Many go to work at nearby John Deere dealerships, the closest of which is in Pittsburg.

FSCC President Alysia Johnston said the metal building is expected to be completed in two weeks. There was a delay concerning the red iron used for the metal building.

“It’s pretty much on schedule,” she said. “It should be ready to go for spring classes that start in January. We wanted to make sure on measurements before the crane came in.”

FSCC received a $100,000 grant to move its welding program to the east campus and it is located in a garage building behind the old armory building. Johnston said there are 16 students enrolled in the college’s welding program.

With the move of the John Deere program to Fort Scott, the agriculture department moved from the old armory to Burris Hall on the college’s main campus.

“We’re hoping to build onto that building (Burris Hall),” Johnston said.

In July, the FSCC Board of Trustees approved the low bid of $561,000 from Tri-State Building and Supply Co., Inc., of Pittsburg to construct the metal building as part of improvements to house the John Deere program and the welding program.

“I think it’s gone great,” Johnston said. “The contractors have been great to work with. I know it’s been hard on the instructors but they’ve been great. I’ve been pleased with them and the program.”

According to FSCC information, the metal building for the John Deere program will not be attached due to draining issues but will allow easy access from the current building. The building will have a concrete floor, five overhead doors, insulation and heating, a crane for lifting, two restrooms and a drainage collection system for a shop area.

There would also be a pole barn-type structure located on the south side of the current building for storage of other large equipment. Renovation of space for the welding program involves installation of booths, welders and changes to electrical and ventilation.

In May, the board approved the lone bid for financing the John Deere building and renovations. The main difference between the original expectation and the bid received was in the amount of interest that will be paid. Originally, it was estimated the interest would total $344,501. Instead, it will be $353,969, a difference of $9,468. The principal amount on the certificates of participation is $930,000. The term of the lease is for 20 years.

In April, trustees approved a resolution “authorizing the offering for sale of lease purchase agreement certificates of participation.” Proceeds will help finance acquisition of the armory building, construction of the metal building and other improvements. Estimated cost of the metal building is $620,000. There is also a 10-percent contingency and other costs associated with issuing the lease.

The college vacated the Frontenac facility this summer.

In late 2016, college officials and trustees began discussing the option of moving the John Deere program to the east campus and making use of space at the campus not being used. The college’s lease agreement for the Frontenac facility ended as Sugar Creek Packing Company wished to expand into the current John Deere building.

Aikin said a grand opening event for the new facility and program is scheduled to take place in February.