Learning the skills to keep a giant earthmover on the job, or troubleshooting problems on a piece of heavy equipment might not conjure up images of traveling to Russia for an international competition or weighing career offers with leading American corporations. For Ferris State University graduate Ryan Meppelink, of Vriesland in Ottawa County, the recent past and short-term future involve both prospects.
As a student in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology, Meppelink refined the skills he established as a high school student at Careerline Tech Center, an operation of the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.
“I have always enjoyed learning how to fix things, and got an early exposure to the transportation and heavy equipment industry through Inontime Logistics and Warehousing,” Meppelink said. “My father was a driver for them, and got me a job there, three days after my 16th birthday.”
Meppelink said he gradually rose through the ranks there. He started in the shop, then served as a maintenance liaison and earned work as a technician. As he completed his studies at Careerline Tech, Meppelink was a participant in the SkillsUSA National Skills and Leadership Conference, placing third in the 2016 Diesel Equipment Technology competition.
“I felt I had a good background when I began my studies at Ferris, in the fall of 2016,” Meppelink said. “I had been exposed to engines, various types of heavy equipment and systems while I was at Careerline Tech, but had not been exposed to hydraulics. I admit those systems were not a desired area of study as I began, but I realized that by keeping an open mind, I would have greater options in terms of industry opportunities for my career.”
Whether the equipment is diesel-powered, has a gasoline engine or is driven by electricity, Meppelink said there is plenty to learn, and abundant opportunity to build skills, whether it is in the classroom, laboratory, in internships or as a technician.
“There are unique aspects to heavy equipment, whether it operates on the road or agricultural or industrial operations,” Meppelink said. “The systems are purpose-driven, and there are specialized tools to use in repairs for a particular machine. This makes for a different mode of work, where basic principles are applied, while very specific directions are followed to do the repair on a particular unit. I have spent my summers, late weeks and weekends during my school years and worked a co-op to build my skills, and become familiar with a variety of equipment. It has allowed me to acquire the proper tools and support the costs of my education.”
Meppelink added that while there is dirt and grease to deal with to diagnose and repair fleet vehicles and various types of heavy equipment, precision prevails in the technician’s response, and the work reports that they produce.
“You have to take pride in offering a neat and punctual presentation,” Meppelink said. “I got this concept presented to me at the beginning of my studies at Careerline Tech, and the emphasis has continued, to my college classwork and my competitions at the SkillsUSA and World Skills level. At that highest level, being legible was an important part of my success.”
Meppelink began his final term at Ferris completing early assignments while he was half a world away. He was the United States’ Best of Nation award recipient among 20 members of the country’s WorldSkills team based on his bronze-medal result in Heavy Vehicle Technology at the competition in Kazan, Russia.
“My decision to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology was based on those first experiences at Inontime,” Meppelink said. “Competing in WorldSkills meant I was very busy for a year and a half, but the time investment has definitely opened doors for me, it provided all the exposure and opportunity that I could have hoped for.”
Saturday, Dec. 14 was another crowning achievement for Meppelink, as he received his Bachelor of Science in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology. He has been in discussions with Caterpillar-Michigan, Penske Corporation and other leading companies in the transportation industry, as he prepared for graduation day.
“I have been exposed to working in a union shop, thanks to an internship with Caterpillar,” Meppelink said. “‘Cat’ treats their employees very well, which is something I will keep in mind as I come to a decision on where to start my career. Another factor is the ability to have national or international placement with Caterpillar. I am also being mindful to consider opportunities in Fleet Management, so I can shape my career in ways that do not tax my hands and body. Whatever company I choose to work with, I will be at a full-time post to start the New Year.”
Meppelink’s first steps following graduation also hinge on his discussions with his girlfriend, Allyson Bowers, who continues her studies in Communications Sciences and Disorders at Central Michigan University.
“I am looking forward to starting my career, but will head to Mississippi to relax over the holidays,” Meppelink said. “This has been a very active and exciting year. Then, I plan to make as much time as possible for Allison, as we can manage.”
Meppelink has also decided that his WorldSkills experience should be shared, rather than simply serve as a memory, or story in the competition’s record books.
“I can be driving and hear a particular song, which takes me back to the sunsets during
our team’s travels in Russia,” Ryan said. “There was a great deal that I learned in
this multicultural competition, and those songs take me right back to those experiences
and accomplishments. I want to help give someone else the chance to enjoy the same
feelings by helping them to compete in Shanghai, China, at WorldSkills 2021.”
More from Fall 2019 commencement:
- Wrap-up story from Dec. 14
- Fall 2019 Commencement highlight video
- Full video from Dec. 14 morning ceremony
- Full video from Dec. 14 afternoon ceremony
- Fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate: Connie Morris
- Fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate Video: Daniel Rivera
- Fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate Video: Kristen Verrill