INA, Ill. (Oct. 28, 2020) — Garrett Howell did not want to settle. After nine years of service in the U.S. Army, the Centralia native was back in civilian life and looking for work. But options were slim.
“I was running into a lot of issues where (employers) wanted to pay very little or they wanted someone with a degree,” Howell said.
Howell had plenty of experience as a mechanic, including his time in the service. He said recruiters would often say that military experience would make him an attractive candidate to prospective employers.
“They love the military, but when you don’t have the degree, they might treat you as entry-level,” Howell said. “And I did not want to settle. If I’m going to go in, I’m going to go all in.”
That meant heading to college to fine-tune his automotive skills and earn a degree. Howell said there were plenty of options available to get started on an automotive degree. But Rend Lake College offered the type of rapport he was looking for between teachers and students.
“I wanted to go somewhere that took care of the students on a one-on-one basis,” he said. “And (RLC) really offered that. The main thing I can say is they really put their heart into teaching their students.”
He earned his Associate in Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology in two years. Howell then chose to further his education by transferring to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where he would earn his bachelor’s degree in Automotive Engineering Technology. Then his dream job came calling before he even got his diploma. Cummins, a corporation based in Columbus, Ind., offered him a job as a Diagnostic Domain Architect.
“It worked out really well,” Howell said. “I didn’t see myself getting the job.”
For the past two years, he’s taken on a variety of projects for the company, which specializes in diesel and alternative fuel engines and generators, and related components and technology. Howell said his work entails collaborating with other engineers to troubleshoot diagnostics for the engines. He said Cummins works with engines for vehicles or engines with enough power generation to back up a hospital.
Howell said there are plenty of opportunities for people looking to break into the automotive technology field. With rapid advances in technology, skilled workers will continue to be in high demand. You just have to put the work in.
“Automotive tech is big and it’s growing so rapidly. Don’t question going further with your education. The reward is going to be great,” he said. “You don’t have to settle for that entry-level position. Just don’t settle.”
Interested in a career in auto tech or a related field? Rend Lake College has a variety of degrees or certificates available. Head to rlc.edu to get started or contact the Applied Science and Technology Division at (618) 437-5321 Ext. 1261 or AppliedScience@rlc.edu.