Company woos WyoTech students with jaunt on private jet

Greg Johnson, Gillette News Record C&B John Deere recently used one of its private jets to transport a group of WyoTech advanced diesel mechanic students to several of its dealerships. The company was trying to recruit the students to join its workforce as diesel mechanics, which are in short supply around the country. The students on the trip included, from left, Zac Pafford, Garrett Stutzman, Traven Weihe, Charles Lorenz and Hunter Markley.

LARAMIE — Those weren’t rock stars or major social media influencers you may have seen boarding a private jet at the Laramie Regional Airport on the morning of Sept. 1.

The jet made a special trip to the Gem City of the Plains for what has these days become a much more valuable group of passengers.

Diesel mechanics.

In all, a half-dozen WyoTech students close to finishing their nine-month course of study to become advanced diesel technicians were whisked away for a day of jet hopping. On the itinerary were a handful of the 37 John Deere tractor dealerships owned by C&B John Deere.

Like many industries around the United States, the South Dakota-based company is struggling through a shortage of qualified workers, said Carey Brenner, the company’s recruiter.

Along with the typical trade fairs and recruiting trips to schools like WyoTech, Brenner said a C&B regional manager had the idea to literally sweep the company’s top recruits off their feet by using a private jet.

“Our most needed position that I’m recruiting for is diesel technicians,” Brenner said. “They are really in demand.”

For the six WyoTech students, the recruiting perk was something they never expected.

“It was definitely an experience for me,” said Hunter Markley. “I’d never been on a plane before.”

Nine months earlier, Markley was working on a farm. Now he has highly sought-after skills and has accepted a job with C&B.

“All in all, (the jet) was a good experience,” he said. “It just goes to show what the company’s willing to do for their employees.”

Zac Pafford also was impressed with the recruiting tactic. The former U.S Army staff sergeant has several job offers he’s considering. But sending a private jet did make an impression.

“It definitely shows that they’re invested in you and they’d take good care of you,” Pafford said.

Like Pafford, Garrett Stutzman also is mulling over several job offers for when he finishes his advanced diesel program.

“Getting flown out to visit those locations was pretty cool,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting the whole thing (with the jet). It made me feel important to them even before being an employee.”

Charles Lorenz also has signed on to work for C&B when he graduates in a few weeks. He said the jet was an unusual touch that made an impression.

“It told me initially what the company stood for at that point,” he said. “And, it told me how you’re going to get treated after you get there, namely pretty good.”

Nine months ago, Traven Weihe said he worked but didn’t really have a career or a professional direction.

“I was doing a little bit of everything: landscaping, gutters — anything I could do for work,” he said.

Less than year later he was on a private jet being recruited by a large company. He said sending the jet was a nice touch in the recruiting process and also likely shows how competitive recruiting has become.

“Oh, shoot, it shows me that there’s a lot of opportunity within the diesel industry,” Weihe said. “Diesel mechanics are needed and they’re always going to be needed.”

Also making the trip was Ashton Settlemire.

The private jet wasn’t only a first for the diesel students, it was something the instructors at WyoTech also haven’t seen before.

“That was new,” said Brad Williams, a veteran diesel instructor. “Never saw a company fly a private jet out to pick up students or heard of another trade school doing such a thing or having a partnership like that with another company.”

He said the tactic seems to have worked with at least three of the six taking their offers and the others considering.

“The industry is hurting and it’s all over with the trades industry as a whole,” Williams said. “You can’t find employees to hire and WyoTech is putting out a product they want. And this shows the extent they’re going to go to to recruit students from WyoTech.”

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