Spotlight: Montana Ferguson
Montana Ferguson learned early that a lot is possible when you think big about your future. Montana works with Boyd CAT, a Caterpillar dealer, as a Customer Rental Representative for Heavy Equipment. His position in Louisville, Kentucky, is focused primarily on working with large contractors to make sure they have the right equipment for their jobs. Montana works directly with the biggest machines out there, from D6N Cat bulldozers and 326 Cat excavators all the way up to D11T Cat dozers. He’s getting the toughest equipment onto construction sites every day to help crews get their work done safely, efficiently, and with the right machines.
Montana didn’t always know he was going to end up in the construction industry. In high school, Montana would watch the machinery on local constructions sites. He didn’t have any experience himself operating heavy equipment, but he knew that he couldn’t stop watching it. The way the machines moved and got work done was fascinating to him. It made sense that Montana was hooked after Ray Genet, technical recruiter, of Boyd CAT came to Prosser Career Education Center to talk about a career in the construction industry. They showed the students what a career in construction could look like and told them about a technician program they had available called the ThinkBIG Program.
The first time he heard about ThinkBIG from Boyd CAT was during Montana’s junior year. The program was for new graduates, so there was nothing Montana could do with the program at first. He filed it away in the back of his mind, and continued to explore his interest in construction through his trade school education at Prosser in New Albany, Indiana. He spent half of his day doing traditional classes at Jeffersonville High School, and then the second half of the day he took the bus with other students over to Prosser. He worked hands-on with the equipment, learning the ins and outs of some of the basic machinery. When Boyd CAT came back to Prosser during Montana’s senior year, he was ready.
He talked with the same recruiter again that year. Ray gave Montana an overview of the ThinkBIG program, highlighting a few big pieces of information for Montana to consider. There was an exam, and applicants had to apply with a formal cover letter, resume, and panel interview. With that information, Montana realized that the ThinkBIG program was a big deal, and he looked into more details to see if it would be a good fit for him.
ThinkBIG is a Caterpillar-specific training program that is designed to train Caterpillar technicians on the job. The instructional program accepts candidates to join the team, earn a paycheck, and train to become a technician. ThinkBIG includes paid, hands-on training as well as classroom-setting labs and lectures. Each ThinkBIG participant partners with a sponsoring company, which is why Boyd CAT was at Prosser talking to students about the program. They were looking for the next class of ThinkBIG participants, and Montana was intrigued.
Montana reviewed the details of the program and talked with his grandfather about what it would mean to commit to ThinkBIG. It’s a two-year agreement to join the program. At the end of the two years, graduates receive an Associate of Applied Science Degree from an accredited college and have already completed one year of paid technician work that can be used to advance a career as a tech. Montana was set to graduate in 2015, and from his grandfather’s perspective, it was a smart choice. Montana would be in a tuition contract with Boyd CAT, he’d receive pay while he was learning, and he would have some direction and experience under his belt. He decided to apply for the ThinkBIG program, and he was accepted.
Montana was excited about the opportunity to get to work and learn from a company that represented a Fortune 500 company. Many of his peers from his high school graduated and then waited around until there were open positions at the larger companies in the area like Ford and UPS. Some of his friends waited for over a year just to get an entry-level position. Meanwhile, Montana was at work just a month after his May 2015 graduation. His first two months on the job were in the shop, where Montana explored his options. He wasn’t familiar with the technician’s world, so he was a blank slate in terms of understanding engines and Cat equipment. He followed the eight-weeks-on, eight-weeks-off schedule of the program. For eight weeks, Montana was in school, learning from his instructors at Illinois Central College in the special Caterpillar building designed for education. The second eight weeks, he was working at his home dealership, Boyd CAT, in Louisville, working through a checklist of responsibilities and work that supplemented what he learned in the classroom.
The lifestyle was structured and supportive of Montana’s education. They set the students up for future success by requiring on-time attendance, activity logs, a Caterpillar-branded uniform, and accountability.
The work was worth it. Montana graduated from ThinkBIG in 2017 and had an employment offer available to him at Boyd CAT. After studying the technician program and learning his way around the shop floor, Montana knew something for sure: he loved the Dealer Service Technician program, and he was happy with his decision, but he had different hopes for his future. He didn’t want to be a technician in the long run. He setup a meeting with Dave Cummins, who at the time was the Branch Operations Manager, about his dream of working with heavy machinery. Dave knew just the answer, and he told Montana about the ThinkBIGGER program at Pittsburg State University. Once again, Montana saw an amazing opportunity for further training from one of the nation’s leading construction companies.
ThinkBIGGER builds on the basics of the ThinkBIG program, but it offers students the opportunity to earn a four-year degree. Montana could transfer his credits from the ThinkBIG program to Pittsburg State University and in two years, have a Bachelor of Applied Science (Diesel and Heavy Equipment emphasis). Once again, Montana applied and was accepted.
Montana packed up his things and moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, to live. He took full advantage of the tuition opportunity in the program, and he was able to experience a traditional college program. He lived on campus, got involved in the campus community, and attended classes with other students–not just ThinkBIGGER peers. He played Ultimate Frisbee, joined the International Student Association, Outdoor Activities Club, and took 18 credit hours each semester. Montana also added on to his studies and decided to pursue a minor in Business Administration from the School of Business and Accounting. He was provided with a dedicated ThinkBIGGER advisor who kept him on track to graduate.
“ThinkBIG gave me the discipline I needed to show up and be successful,” Montana said. “I was used to the first program with a lot of accountability and responsibility. It was exactly what I needed to stay on track in the ThinkBIGGER program.”
Montana graduated in May 2019, and he immediately had two job offers from Boyd CAT: one position in the service shop, and one position in sales as a Customer Rental Representative.
Montana decided to go into sales, and he’s happily been working with the Boyd team since he returned back to Louisville from his time in Pittsburg, Kansas. “There’s something for literally everyone in construction,” Montana said. “We have white collar jobs. We have blue collar jobs. We can’t get enough technicians. We train fast, build loyalty, and we want to see people have success. Those big yellow machines you see? They mean big opportunities.”
Learn more about the ThinkBIG and ThinkBIGGER programs from Caterpillar here.