Add some horsepower to your earning power.

Western States ThinkBIG Program
This Caterpillar-sponsored program supported by Western States Cat and three other Northwest dealers provides you with Caterpillar-specific training including eight semesters of classes at Portland Community College (PCC) and 8-12 weeks of rotating internships at assigned Western States shops throughout the region.

Location: PCC in Portland, OR and Western States Cat Meridian, ID campus or one of our 13 regional locations
Dates: First eight-week internship starts in July, classes start in September
Length: 24 months (rotating, eight weeks at PCC then 8-12 weeks at a Western States Cat regional location)
Paid/Unpaid: 8-12 week internships are paid
Costs: Tuition, fees, housing, books, etc. (Financial aid available, if qualified.)
Degree: Associate’s of Applied Science – Diesel Technology

  • High School diploma or GED prior to program start date.
  • High school seniors getting ready to graduate from high school are also eligible to apply.
  • Complete ThinkBIG application
  • Successful completion of the COMPASS test
  • Completion of the AED technical assessment
  • Successful completion of hands-on mechanical aptitude test
  • Personal interview
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Must meet all PCC college entrance requirements
How to Apply:

Application Period
  • The application process starts in September.

Application Process
  1. Go to Western States Cat Careers.
  2. Click on the Current Job Openings and search for the Western States CAT Technician Program.
  3. Submit your online application, being sure to fill out the application completely. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  4. Once your application is submitted, you will be contacted by the Western States Cat Employment Coordinator. He or she will discuss the program in more detail and will explain the next steps in the process which include:
    1. applying for admission at PCC
    2. taking the COMPASS test
    3. providing three letters of recommendation
    4. taking a hands on mechanical aptitude test, and
    5. scheduling an interview
  5. Successful candidates will be notified that they have been accepted into the program and will be scheduled to start in July/August.
Apply Now Question and Answer Parent Info.

Q & A: Answers to your questions.


Can you apply for both programs?
  • Yes, you can apply for both programs provided you meet the qualifications for the program(s) you apply for.
  • Each program has a separate application process and requirements, so you would need to fill out an application for each program and complete any school requirements, if applicable.
Apply Now.

Can you move between programs?
  • No.
  • Each program stands alone and has a different application and selection process.
  • If you qualify for and are offered entry to multiple programs, you will be asked to select one.

What are the expectations if you are accepted into a program?
  • For both programs, you are expected to meet attendance and performance criteria.
  • Attendance means participants will be on time and will have a good attendance record.
  • Poor attendance will be grounds for dismissal from either of the programs. You cannot learn the material if you do not attend the classes/training and the labs.
  • Performance means that you actively participate in all classes, discussions, complete your assignments, and pass the tests.
  • You need to maintain a positive attitude and treat your classmates, instructors, and co-workers professionally.
  • Failure to meet the performance expectations will be grounds for dismissal from either of the programs.
  • In addition to these expectations, participants in the programs need to adhere to the expectations and standards outlined in the school’s/program’s student handbook.


When do you become an employee of WSECO?
  • As a ThinkBIG participant, you become a temporary employee of Western States Equipment Company from the first day.
  • Participants in the Western States CAT Technician Program are not considered employees until graduation.
  • Participants of both programs become full time employees upon successful graduation of their applicable program.

Are you guaranteed a job by acceptance and starting any of the programs?
  • No, acceptance to the program does not mean you are guaranteed a job.
  • Each program has performance and attendance expectations associated that must be met for completion and a job offer.
  • There are academic requirements which must be met for both programs.
  • Formal job offers are extended to those students who successfully graduate from their program.


Are you eligible for benefits?
  • Benefits are not available to any program participants.
  • Benefits are offered as soon as the successful program participant graduates and becomes a full time employee of Western States Equipment Company.
  • Benefits include the following:
    • Medical and prescription coverage
    • Dental and vision coverage
    • Company paid life insurance (base coverage paid by the company, optional coverage available for purchase)
    • Company paid accidental death & dismemberment insurance (base coverage paid by the company, optional coverage available for purchase)
    • Long term disability insurance (base coverage paid by the company, optional coverage available for purchase)
    • 401K with company match and discretionary profit-sharing opportunity


Is housing available?
  • Due to the longer duration of the programs, you will need to make arrangements for your own housing.
  • Both the Portland and Meridian/Boise areas have multiple housing options available.

Financial Aid

Is financial aid available?
  • Participants in both the ThinkBIG program and the WSCTP are eligible to apply for financial aid through the associated colleges, PCC and CWI, both of which offer scholarship opportunities to qualifying individuals.


Do you need your own tools?
  • While attending any of the programs, a basic tool set is provided.
  • Upon graduation, you will be required to provide the tooling you need to perform your job duties.
  • Tool sets will be available at discounted rates for program graduates to purchase.

Have a question not addressed here?
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Invest in your child's future.

As a parent, one of life's biggest transitions is when your child graduates from high school. There are lots of choices to be made. You can help in this process by encouraging your child to consider skilled trades careers, including becoming a heavy equipment and truck technician.


The diesel and heavy equipment skilled trades offer great career opportunities to men and women who enjoy working with their hands and are mechanically inclined. The schooling required to become proficient in these trades can generally be done in two years or less through an Associate’s Degree or a technical certificate program. Plus, the need for these jobs is only going to increase.

Don't take our word for it.

Forbes published an article on 3/7/13 titled “America’s Skilled Trades Dilemma: Shortages Loom As Most-In-Demand Group of Workers Age.” It explains how skilled trades jobs are currently some of the most challenging to fill and with the aging work force, and how the shortage is only getting worse. This means there are a variety of opportunities for those with the right skills and education to meet industry demand.


Western States Cat offers two programs to train your son or daughter to be a Caterpillar technician.
  1. Western States CAT Technician Program (WSCTP) – Located in Nampa, ID, this program provides the education and training necessary to be a Caterpillar technician. Taught in conjunction with the College of Western Idaho and offers 12 months of college courses plus a three-month internship at one of 13 Western States locations.
  2. ThinkBIG Program – Located in Portland, OR and onsite at a Western States Cat location, this is a 2-year Associate of Applied Science Degree program where students spend 8 weeks at Portland Community College (PCC) followed by 8-12 weeks at a Western States Cat location in the shop as an intern receiving training to be a Caterpillar technician.


  • Accredited schools. Both CWI and PCC are accredited schools. Graduates of the WSCTP receive an Advanced Technical Certificate at the program completion and have college credits that can be applied to a 2 year A.A.S. degree. Graduates of the ThinkBIG program graduate with an A.A.S. degree.
  • Quick earning potential. Once enrolled, students are in the classroom learning right away and building skills during the following internship periods. Start to finish, it’s faster and less expensive than college and gets your son or daughter out into the workforce and making money faster.
  • Portable skills. Skilled tradespeople have the ability to live where the work is and work where they want to live. The five-state Western States CAT region includes multiple locations where the cost of living is good and the quality of life is attractive.

Financial Information

  • Tuition & Fees.
    • Tuition and fees vary by school.
    • The tuition at CWI for the WSCTP is approximately $136 per credit hour.
    • The tuition at PCC for the ThinkBIG program is approximately $88 per credit hour.
    • Program participants are responsible to pay tuition and the cost of housing, meals, books, etc.
  • Financial Aid. Students in the WSCTP and ThinkBIG program are eligible to apply for financial aid. To find out more information or to apply for financial aid, see the Federal Student Aid website or access the applicable school’s website for more information.
  • Scholarships.
    • Western States Cat does not have scholarships available.
    • There are industry scholarships available to help fund secondary education.
    • Foundations, such as the mikeroweWORKS Foundation offer scholarships that are specific to individuals pursuing a career in the Skilled Trades.
    • Other scholarship opportunities are often available through your local high school or through your local community.


  • Housing.
    • Housing is the responsibility of the program participant in all programs.
    • Apartments are available to rent around the PCC and/or CWI campuses.
  • Tooling.
    • Tools are required to be a successful technician.
    • Most technicians start with a base set of tools and build their tool boxes over time.
    • While a participant in any of the programs, tools will be provided at no cost to the participant.
    • Tool options vary by program, but upon graduation from the all programs, tools will be available to graduates for purchase at a reduced price.