He knows his Deeres
Dakota Kalis is a John Deere-certified mechanic who actually attended a John Deere technical program at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, Iowa for two years.
The John Deere Tech program is designed to upgrade the technical competence and professional level of the incoming John Deere dealership technician. It is supported by the John Deere Company. Students receive classroom lectures and real life laboratory experiences on John Deere products at the Calmar campus and a unique opportunity to work at a John Deere dealership. Each specialized subject is studied in the classroom and laboratory on campus, followed by related work experience at the dealership.
Blue Earth’s Kibble Equipment, a certified John Deere dealership, sponsored Kalis’ education.
“It’s a two year program that goes straight through summer, back to back,” says Kalis. “You get on the job training and an opportunity to come back to the dealership for three months of work. It was a really great program for me, and it helped me a lot to not only get to know the John Deere equipment, but to really become educated in the tools and equipment used to diagnose issues with our machines in the shop.”
Kalis was a 2014 graduate of United South Central Schools in Wells. He was one of the students in the last class to be taught at the old USC school.
One thing Kalis appreciated most about his John Deere Tech program was the opportunity to receive financial assistance from the dealership. He says once he was sponsored, the local dealership helped with school costs, and after he finished the program, he was given the opportunity of employment to help with repayment for the rest of his educational costs.
“It’s a really great program,” he says. “I had really knowledgeable teachers and professors who knew a lot. It’s a great opportunity for students who are interested in agriculture or mechanics. It’s a one-size- fits-all program. You learn about everything from planters to combines, and it prepares you for everything you may face while on the job. It starts you at square one, with basic information, so anyone can join the program if they have the interest for it.”
Kalis says any student can start from scratch with the John Deere Tech program and leave a professional mechanic ready to enter the world of John Deere expertise.
Right now, Kalis and the other mechanics at Kibble Equipment in Blue Earth are preparing for springtime. That means a lot of inspections and routine services.
“Once we get into summer, it will be a little more hands-on as farmers experience breakdowns and issues with their computer systems,” says Kalis. “In today’s technological world, a lot of our machines have microprocessors and electronic components that require a little more attention. That’s where a lot of the challenge comes from being able to diagnose the issue with the machine. We saw the technology shift in the early 2000s, and technology has evened out lately, so there’s not such a big gap in knowing how to diagnose issues. Older models are a little easier to work with since there isn’t much of that technology component. My education is John Deere-specific, so I have learned how to diagnose those electrical or technical issues.”
And if Kalis can’t figure it out on his own, he’s got a backup plan. His dad, Nick, works as a mechanic and uncle, Nate, is a salesman at Kibble Equipment in Blue Earth, as well. His dad, Nick, has been with the company for 26 years.
“It’s nice working along side my dad and uncle,” says Kalis. “They are always there for you if you need anything, and they’ll be honest with you.”
“It’s good to have Dakota on the team,” says Nick. “He’s a smart kid and knows his John Deere stuff for sure.”
Nick says his son has been working on machines since he was young assisting his dad with creating and fixing race cars, and helping his grandpa with combines in the summer.
“Yeah, I still like to work on my own cars and do some mechanics outside of work,” says Kalis. “And I like to help Dad every once in a while, too.”
Whether it’s tractors or planters, sprayers, tillers or combines, Kalis is a trained expert to help with any farmer’s John Deere needs. He emphasizes that John Deere Tech is a program that sets up any student for success.
Kalis encourages current students who may be interested in being a mechanic or in agriculture to start doing things now, in high school, to help with their success outside of high school.
“Take full advantage of shop classes or metal works classes,” he says. “They are a great starting off point to get your foot in the door. FFA is also a great program to be involved in. Not only does it prepare you with a lot of tools needed for the job, it helps you understand the ins and outs of agriculture.”
And Kalis says there is endless opportunity for students interested in agriculture.
“There will always be work in agriculture,” he says. “Ag work doesn’t slow down and it has all the opportunity you want to push for if you choose to do it. John Deere Tech and Kibble Equipment’s sponsorship set me up for the success I have today.”
Kalis has been working at Kibble Equipment full time for three years now, and says if you need any services done, just ask for Dakota.