Thursday, Dec 12, 2013
No Average Job: Modoc Railroad Academy
MARION -- For Tyler Clegg, the sound of a train bring back childhood memories.
"Me and my grandfather, we'd always go down to Dallas and we'd watch the Kansas City Southern Railroad switch around cars, and they follow routine so you kind of could start to figure it out," he explained.
Clegg's desire to work in the railroad industry brought him all
the way from Texas to the MODOC Railroad Academy in Marion.
"Our first graduating class for conductors was in 2000. We had six people come through the program. They all were employed immediately going to different places across the United States," said David Rangel, deputy director of MODOC.
Rangel has a passion for trains that dates all the way back to his
days as a conductor on the Southern Pacific in 1970. He and his wife launched MODOC Railroad Academy in California and moved to southern Illinois just last year.
Though many people may think it's a dying industry, Rangel disagrees.
"The Department of Transportation says by 2016 railroad traffic is
expected to increase by 40 percent. We're seeing this across the board even now."
Through the years, input from various railroad companies has
helped MODOC pioneer a uniquely detailed training program for engineers and conductors.
"The concept behind the program is to replicate real world conditions, so it's not unusual for a class to start say at 2 o'clock in the morning and go until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, a full 12 hour day," explained Rangel.
The two-month conductor certification and the six-month engineer
certification are intense programs. MODOC is the only school in the U.S. that can certify and license conductors and engineers as required by federal law.
But before students set foot on an actual locomotive, they spend several weeks in the classroom, then move to a simulator for more training.
"One moment I was on the ground and the next moment Mr. Rangel had me hanging off the side of a railroad car, going down the tracks," said student John Johnston.
Training students to be conductors and engineers is what Rangel loves to do; he even put his son through the school.
"He graduated as a locomotive engineer, and with only a GED education, he's making on the CSX Railroad $94,000 a year."
Rangel says because of MODOC's reputation in the industry, every
graduate has about six to eight job offers to choose from.
"We actually are right in the middle of both the two different groups, the
student and the employer, and we're trying to match the needs of both the people."
With opportunities offering lifetime employment, generous wages, and
positions across the United States, these No Average Jobs are are attracting more hopefuls to MODOC Railroad Academy everyday.
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