The heavy equipment industry offers tons of opportunities for people with the right skills and education to meet growing demand. Western States Cat offers two specialized programs that provide the education and hands-on training you need to become a Caterpillar trained technician. The sooner you get started the sooner you can get to work – on the job, on your career, on your life.


Western States Tech Academy – This entry-level, skills-intensive program is ideal for recent high school graduates or individuals with no prior industry experience from military service or on-the-job training. The program is fully immersive, and will equip successful students with the qualifications they need to step into an apprentice technician role after less than a year of study. Uniforms are included, and students may qualify for a tool program as well. For more information email us  [email protected]


This Caterpillar-sponsored program supported by Western States Cat and three other Northwest dealers provides you with Caterpillar-specific training including eight semesters of classes at Portland Community College (PCC) and 8-12 weeks of rotating internships at assigned Western States shops throughout the region.

Location: PCC in Portland, OR and Western States Cat Meridian, ID campus or one of our regional locations

Dates: First eight-week internship starts in July, classes start in September

Length: 24 months (rotating, eight weeks at PCC then 8-12 weeks at a Western States Cat regional location)

Paid/Unpaid: 8-12 week internships are paid

Costs: Tuition, fees, housing, books, etc. (Financial aid available, if qualified).

Degree: Associates of Applied Science – Diesel Technology



  • High School Diploma or GED prior to program start date
  • High School seniors getting ready to graduate from high school are also eligible to apply
  • Complete ThinkBIG application
  • Successful completion of the COMPASS test
  • Completion of the AED technical assessment
  • Successful completion of hands-on mechanical aptitude test
  • Personal interview
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Must meet all PCCcollege entrance requirements


How to Apply:

Application Period

  • The application process begins in September


Application Process

  1. Click on current job openings and search for the Western States Cat Technician Program
  2. Submit your online application, being sure to fill out the application completely. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  3. Once your application is submitted, you will be contacted by the Western States Cat Employment Coordinator. They will discuss the program in more detail and will explain the next steps in the process which include:
    1. Applying for admission at PCC
    2. Taking the COMPASS test
    3. Providing three letters of recommendation
    4. Taking the AED technical assessment
    5. Scheduling an interview
  4. Successful candidates will be notified that they have been accepted into the program and will be scheduled to start in July/August


Can you apply for both programs?

  • Yes, you can apply for both programs provided you meet the qualifications for the program(s) you apply for.
  • Each program has a separate application process and requirements, so you would need to fill out an application for each program and complete any school requirements, if applicable.

Can you move between programs?

  • No
  • Each program stands alone and has a different application and selection process.
  • If you qualify for and are offered entry to multiple programs, you will be asked to select one.

What are the expectations if you are accepted into a program?

  • For both programs, you are expected to meet attendance and performing criteria
  • Attendance means participants will be on time and will have a good attendance record
  • Poor attendance will be grounds for dismissal from either of the programs. You cannot learn the material if you do not attend the classes/training and the labs
  • Performance means that you actively participate in all classes, discussions, complete your assignments, and pass the tests
  • You need to maintain a positive attitude and treat your classmates, instructors, and co-workers professionally
  • Failure to meet the performance expectations will be grounds for dismissal from either of the programs
  • In addition to these expectations, participants in the program need to adhere to the expectations and standards outlined in the school’s/program’s student handbook



When do you become an employee of Western States Cat?

  • As a ThinkBIG participant, you become a temporary employee of Western States Cat from the first day
  • Participants in the Western States Cat Tech Academy are not considered employees until program completion
  • Participants of both programs become full time employees upon successful completion of their applicable program and offer of employment has been extended

Are you guaranteed a job by acceptance and starting of any of the programs?

  • No, acceptance to either program does not mean you are guaranteed a job
  • Each program has performance and attendance expectations associated that must be met for completion and a job offer
  • There are academic requirements which must be met for both programs
  • Formal job offers are extended to those students who successfully complete their program



Are you eligible for benefits?

  • Benefits are not available to any program participants
  • Benefits are offered as soon as the successful program participant completes his or her program and becomes a full time employee of Western States Cat
  • Benefits include the following:
    • Medical and prescription coverage
    • Dental and vision coverage
    • Company paid life insurance (base coverage paid by the company, optional coverage available for purchase)
    • Company paid accidental death and dismemberment insurance (base coverage paid by the company, optional coverage available for purchase)
    • 401k with company match and discretionary profit-sharing opportunity



Is housing available?

  • Due to the longer duration of the programs, you will need to make arrangements for your own housing
  • Both the Portland and Meridian/Boise areas have multiple housing options available



Is financial aid available?

  • Participants in the ThinkBIG program are eligible to apply for financial aid through the associated college, PCC , which also offers scholarship opportunities to qualifying individuals



Do you need your own tools?

  • While attending any of the programs, a basic tool set is provided
  • Upon graduation, you will be required to provide the tooling you need to perform your job duties
  • Tool sets will be available at discounted rates for program graduates to purchase


For further questions, click here.


As a parent, one of life’s biggest transitions is when your child graduates from high school. There are lots of choices to be made. You can help in this process by encouraging your child to consider skilled trades careers, including becoming a heavy equipment and truck technician.


The diesel and heavy equipment skilled trades offer great career opportunities to men and women who enjoy working with their hands and are mechanically inclined. The schooling required to become proficient in these trades can generally be done in two years or less through an Associate’s Degree or technical apprenticeship program. Plus, the need of these jobs is only going to increase.


Forbes published an article on 3/7/13 titled “America’s Skilled Trades Dilemma: Shortages Loom As Most-In-Demand Group of Workers Age.” It explains how skilled trades jobs are currently some of the most challenging to fill and with the aging work force, and how the shortage is only getting worse. This means there are a variety of opportunities for those with the right skills and education to meet industry demand.


Western States Cat offers two programs to train your son or daughter to be a Caterpillar technician.

  • Western States Tech Academy – Located in Meridian, ID, this program provides the education and training necessary to be a Caterpillar technician. Taught at our corporate campus, this program offers 7 months of courses plus a two-month internship at one of 13 full service Western States locations.
  • ThinkBIG Program – Located in Portland, OR, and on-site at a Western States Cat location, this is a 2-year Associate of Applied Science Degree program where students spend 8 weeks at Portland Community College (PCC) followed by 8-12 weeks at a Western States Cat location in the shop as an intern receiving training to be a Caterpillar technician.



  • Accredited Schools. PCC is fully accredited. Graduates of the ThinkBIG program graduate with an A.A.S. degree.
  • Quick Earning Potential. Once enrolled, students are in the classroom learning right away and building skills during the following internship periods. Start to finish, it’s faster and less expensive than college and gets your son or daughter out into the workforce and making money quicker.
  • Portable Skills. Skilled tradespeople have the ability to live where the work is and work where they want to live. The five-state Western States Cat region includes multiple locations where the cost of living is good and the quality of life is attractive.



Tuition & Fees

  • Tuition and fees vary by program
  • The tuition at PCC for the ThinkBIG program is approximately $88 per credit hour
  • Program participants are responsible to pay tuition and the cost of housing, meals, books, etc

Financial Aid

  • Students in the ThinkBIG program are eligible to apply for financial aid. To find out more information or to apply for financial aid, see the Federal Student Aid website or access the applicable school’s website for more information


  • Western States Cat does not have scholarships available
  • There are industry scholarships available to help fund secondary education
  • Foundations, such as the mikeroweWORKS Foundation offer scholarships that are specific to individuals pursuing a career in the Skilled Trades

Other scholarship opportunities are often available through your local high school or through your local community



  • Housing is the responsibility of the program participant in all programs
  • Apartments are available to rent around the PCC or Western States campuses


  • Tools are required to be a successful technician
  • Most technicians start with a base set of tools and build their toolboxes over time
  • While a participant in any of the programs, tools will be provided at no cost to the participant
  • Tool options vary by program, but upon graduation from all the programs, tools will be available to graduates for purchase at a reduced price