News + Updates, People, Work

Did you know that the US has over a shortage of over 500k construction workers?

Although construction school enrollment has increased over the past  two years, there is still a huge need for new people to enter the construction industry.

This year, Cat Footwear is taking a different approach with our Back to School efforts. We are using  this time which has historically focused on students going back to traditional schooling, to highlight the individuals who have decided to take a non-traditional route and go into trade school and construction school.

To help us with this endeavor, we partnered with Caterpillar’s ThinkBig Program to share the stories on individuals that have chosen careers in the trades. ThinkBig  is a Caterpillar specific instructional program that pays you to train to become a technician. When students are accepted into the program, they alternate between lab and classroom work and a paid internship  at a sponsoring  Caterpillar  dealership.

This month we had the opportunity to speak to  three current and former Think Big Students that were eager to chat with about us about their experience in the program:


Nick Chesser,  a current student at Owens Community College and Intern at Ohio Cat.


Hanna Burl, a former ThinkBIG Graduate and current technician at Foley Equipment in Dodge City, Kansas.


Juan Ramos – a current student at Mesa Community College and intern at Empire Cat in Mesa, Arizona

Read more about their reasons for pursuing a career in construction below!

What made you decide to pursue a career in construction?

Nick Chesser: I decided to pursue a career in the trades because I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. I didn’t necessarily do bad in traditional school, but I really excelled when it came to trade school and I’ve enjoyed it with the experiences that I’ve had so far. I got into tractors and stuff with my buddies and I spent my Junior and Senior year [of high school] at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center where I was able to further my interest into engines and working on different pieces of equipment. That’s where I  found that this was something I really wanted to do.

Hanna Burl: I decided to pursue a career in the trade to change careers and just really start something new in life.

Juan Ramos : The reason why I pursued a career in construction is because I think it is vital for societies  to have a thriving construction industry.

Who Inspired you to venture down this career path?

Nick:  My biggest inspiration was probably my dad because he’s always been in the trades and just hearing from his experiences, I always had thoughts on what it would be like if I took the same path. I would often hear about the type of equipment he would run or the type of engine that went into it. That coupled with working on things with him from a  young age lead me down this path.

Hanna: My wife and my dad inspired me to go down this career path into the trades. 

Juan:  There wasn’t one person in particular who inspired me to pursue this career path. but ever since I was young, I’ve always enjoyed building, fixing, creating as well as seeing construction zones and  machinery being used.  I’ve also always enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together.

What do you hope to accomplish in your training?

Nick: The biggest thing I hope to accomplish during my training is  being able to become fluent in not just one machine but every machine as well as  being able to diagnose and troubleshoot

Hanna: Since completing the Think Big program I have been able to further myself and my career as a technician I have also been able to learn things that I did not know before coming into the trades and it’s really paid off and it’s been very rewarding and especially learning a new skill set would suggest the big big program to anyone who want.

Juan: There’s something new everyday to be able to have an answer to any questions in regards to my field. I’ll go with mine through this training is to learn something new everyday that’ll help me in the future and be able to answer any question in regards to my field! I’m going to be a mechanic

What are you looking forward to most after your training is complete?

Nick: After my training is complete I plan on working my way up here  to become a Road Tech or maybe even a resident in one of Cat’s partnered facilities.

Juan: I aspire to be hired here at Empire Cat and be a technician after my training is complete. I aspire to be hired here at Empire cat as a mechanic technician.

Hanna: I recently graduated from the Think Big Program and I’m currently a Level 1 technician at Foley Equipment in Kansas,
Why should others investigate careers in construction?

Nick: I would definitely recommend this career path in the trades to many of the young kids coming out of high school because there’s just so many opportunities out there right now in construction. If you’re just ready to get into the workforce there’s plenty of money to be made and so many opportunities. 

Hanna: Others should explore careers in the trades because it is very rewarding and challenging at times but you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of. You really grow a team with the others working around you. To anyone who wants to get into construction and especially the Think Big Program, do it because it will launch your career and give you a step up over others. 

Juan:  I think people should pursue a career in construction because as I stated previously construction is very vital to our society and our infrastructure. There’s also a shortage of construction workers so that really means  job security and being in high demand.  I’ve had a lot of fun, meeting new people and gaining experience from them as well. 

What is one skill you’ve learned in training so far that you’re proud of or have already benefited from?

 Nick I’ve learned a lot of stuff within trade schools and I did early work release at certain places, but here I’ve gotten to work on the things that I’ve learned about in the books,  but I had never really gotten hands on until now and that’s where the real learning is done. 

Hanna: One skill that I’ve learned from the big big program is engine rebuilding and electrical troubleshooting. It’s kind of the way of the future and it’s very good knowledge to have and it’s something I use almost every single day. yeah I knew that I really had to pay attention and really get a good grasp on it because there are a lot of machines that are electrically driven and that’s definitely the way of the future.
Juan: Through my training and working in the shops I’ve gained a lot of knowledge. I’ve learned how to properly rig heavy iron. I’ve also learned a lot of technical skills such as rebuilding engines, measuring components and inspecting them to see if they’re usable or if they have to be replaced. These are skills that technicians already know and use everyday in the field.


Learn more about the Caterpillar ThinkBig Program here and click  here for the opportunity to enter our Back To [Construction] School giveaway Giveaway

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