Washburn Tech Partners with NARS

February 17, 2015

The National Academy of Railroad Sciences (NARS), an educational relationship between BNSF and Johnson County Community College in Kansas, has reached an agreement with Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka, Kan., to offer NARS-certified curriculum to locomotive diesel mechanical technicians to prepare students for careers in the railroad industry.

Starting this spring, Washburn Tech is offering a semester-long pathway that introduces students to the NARS curriculum. A NARS-certified instructor will cover a range of critical skills needed in a locomotive shop, including inspecting, maintaining and repairing locomotives. Students will get hands-on training by disassembling and reassembling locomotive components that BNSF donated.

The diesel pathway will provide small class sizes to ensure personalized instruction and hands-on learning.

“We will initially limit the courses to 16 students, but will expand the program with additional NARS-certified instructors as market needs demand, ” said Tim Clothier with the Business and Industry Center for Washburn Tech. “This pathway builds on our existing diesel technology program and will enable us to better meet the hiring needs of our business community.“We want to thank BNSF for its generous investment of time, equipment and tools,” said Clothier. “The diesel locomotive pathway is made possible only with commitment from BNSF.”

Local BNSF leaders who have helped support the start-up of the program at Washburn Tech are Curt Meyers, shop superintendent, and Jeanne Artzer, manager, Human Resources.

Topeka is home to one of BNSF’s system shops where locomotives are overhauled. As employees retire and more workers are needed outside of attrition, the expectation is these students will have the knowledge and skills needed to become journeymen.

“We think this program will appeal to a variety of candidates,” said Bret Irvin, BNSF’s assistant vice president, Human Resources, Fort Worth. “For example, many military veterans have a diesel mechanic background, but they have never worked on locomotives. This program will allow them to bridge their skills to a possible career with BNSF.”

As students complete the NARS curriculum at Washburn Tech, they should be prepared to compete for diesel mechanic openings at the Topeka shop.

In addition to Washburn Tech, BNSF entered into a similar training agreement with Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Ill., last year.

According to Irvin, having these relationships with community-based colleges is a great resource for building a skilled workforce. “We’re looking at other community colleges near our major mechanical facilities to develop similar agreements to increase our pipeline of qualified applicants,” he said. “It makes sense to create these opportunities in the communities where we operate, to build a source for skilled applicants and help people in our communities.”

About the photos: Diesel locomotive components donated by BNSF are moved into their new home at Washburn Tech in Topeka, Kan. Now in the lab at Washburn Tech, the components will be used as hands-on teaching aids in the school’s expanded diesel technology program.