Driving Forward to a Promising Career

February 12, 2021

Nick McCormack’s career story started his junior year of high school when he began his 8 ½ years in the Illinois National Guard. Serving as a Forward Observer, Nick was part of the planning team for tactical movements directing artillery drops. Before leaving high school for the military, and even during his service, Nick knew that he enjoyed working on diesel equipment and big trucks.

Nick, in a black uniform shirt with blue sleeves, stands in the auto lab

Like many Vets who finish their service, he took the job he could get upon returning home. “I worked very long hours in a factory and was constantly stressed out,” he said. “I knew something had to change, and that’s when I investigated BTC.”

As he was exploring his options, Nick discovered the Diesel Technician program. This discovery reignited his passion for the industry. Whether they are construction and agricultural equipment or over-the-road semis, today’s heavy trucks are more complicated and diverse than ever.

The Diesel and Heavy Equipment program at Blackhawk Tech is designed to train students for a career in either the “on-highway” or “off-road” industry by offering theory and hands-on instruction about all types of diesel and heavy equipment service and repair.

Nick has always enjoyed the challenge of troubleshooting, diagnosing, and fixing all types of vehicles. Outside of school, he enjoys building motorcycles, working on his car, and is planning to compete in autocross, a sport where drivers use average street vehicles to run a course in the quickest possible time.

Halfway through his first semester, the pandemic hit. “This pandemic has pushed me to study harder and rely on a variety of different resources,” Nick explained. “I’m very determined and dedicated to my courses, and the pandemic has challenged me to keep moving forward while adapting to constantly changing precautions and state mandates.”

The pandemic also encouraged Nick to pursue an additional opportunity. On the recommendation of his instructor, Nick decided to take on the challenge of the Blackhawk Transport diesel internship program. Blackhawk Transport is a local company committed to local and national engagement through essay contests, social responsibility, logistic assistance to victims of national disasters, and offering internships to promising BTC students. This opportunity allows Nick to learn in a variety of ways.

“Everything I learn at work applies to everything I learn in class and vice versa,” he excitedly explained. Once he graduates in the spring of 2022, Nick plans to make this part-time opportunity his full-time career.

Steve Jones, an instructor in the Blackhawk diesel program, is eager to see Nick make his goals a reality. “Nick always comes to the classroom and lab setting ready to learn. He strives to perform his best, not just for a grade, but for bettering himself and his career,” Steve said. “Nick is more than willing to share his life experiences with other students. It is a privilege to have him in the Diesel program here at Blackhawk Technical College. I am excited to see where Nick will be in 3-5 years.”

Going back to school is a challenge that Nick is happy to have tackled. He offered this tip for others contemplating a return to school, “the biggest advice I can give is to keep moving forward. You are here for one reason or another, don’t slow down. This educational path may be challenging at some point, but the result makes it worth every minute.”

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