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Train so you can Finish FIRST: Training Manager David Akins

"Sure, having a good GPA is important, but the biggest things Freightliner is looking for are even more basic than grades. Are students or employees on time? Are they committed? Are they passionate? Do they follow instructions?"

 

David Akins speaks from experience — almost 40 years of it, in fact. Starting as a tech on the shop floor, David worked his way through various management positions until he was asked to become a trainer. That was 19 years ago, and he’s been the Training Manager for Freightliner of Arizona for the last seven of them.

Freightliner, founded more than 75 years ago, is the largest brand of trucks manufactured in North America, accounting for 40 percent of the market share of all trucks on U.S. and Canadian roads.  David facilitates the continuing education for all employees—predominantly technicians, though he’s done corporate training, dealership training and all the technical training on chassis and engines too.

Freightliner of Arizona relies on Universal Technical Institute for quality technicians. It established the Finish FIRST program in 2008, an elective 12-week course where UTI diesel program students get brand-specific training. This relationship has proven to be a strong asset and good investment for both the school and the students who participate in the program.  When asked what makes a good technician, David has some valuable insights for students, “Sure, having a good GPA is important, but the biggest things Freightliner is looking for are even more basic than grades. Are students or employees on time? Are they committed? Are they passionate? Do they follow instructions?” David gives a tour for the Finish FIRST class at the beginning of the 12 weeks. He always asks students why they want to be in the business. “I want to make sure people are passionate about this industry.” However, he says, it’s equally important they’re punctual and thorough.

Students are sometimes attracted to the trucking industry because of its sustainability and job security. It’s not “recession-proof” but has fared well through dips in the economy because people still need to ship and receive supplies. According to American Trucking Associations, 71 percent of the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks. “Trucking is a big part of our culture. It’s a big part of everything we do,” says David.

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