ThinkBIG Technician Apprentice Program


ThinkBIG Looking to build your future? Empire is proud to partner with Mesa Community College to administer the ThinkBIG Apprentice Program, a two-year college-level curriculum which provides students with the education and skills necessary to become heavy-equipment diesel technicians.

While our two-year program is competitive and rigorous, it offers immense rewards. Upon program completion, you will receive an Associate in Applied Science Degree from Mesa Community College and Cat® Dealer Service Technician credentials, which are recognized by all Cat Dealers worldwide.


Download the ThinkBIG Guide


Having a passion for working with your hands and solving complex problems is an excellent start on the career path of becoming a heavy equipment technician. Sharing and exemplifying Empire's Corporate Values of Safety, Respect, Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence, Stewardship, and Astonishment is also another advantage.

Other characteristics that make you an ideal candidate for the apprenticeship program include:

  • Technical school graduate
  • High school graduate
  • Enrollment in college
  • Military mechanical background
  • Mechanical backgrounds and heavy equipment repair experience

For many ThinkBIG students, the program is not only a chance to learn a set of desirable skills but also an opportunity to work for top Cat Dealers. The heavy equipment industry pays great, and Cat Dealers lead the way in offering competitive salaries and opportunities for career advancement.


As a ThinkBIG graduate, you can expect to earn about $30,000 as an entry level Cat Dealer Service Technician; as your skills and experience increase over time, you have the potential to earn over $100,000 in senior level positions. In addition to great money, your benefits package can also incorporate overtime, paid vacation time, flexible hours, retirement and savings plans.

Apprenticeship program


There are 5 important steps in Empire’s ThinkBIG program enrollment process:

Step 1

1. Apply for ThinkBIG Job

Get ready to apply for the ThinkBIG job post January – March. Applications are only accepted during this time. When the job post is live, you will create an account and submit your intial application on

Step 2

2. Complete Full Application

Once your online application is received, Empire will contact you to complete the full ThinkBIG application, which includes:

  • Letter of Recommendation (from vocational instructor, mentor, professor or professional contact).
  • Copy of high school transcripts.
  • Community college assessment test results.
  • Essay on why you want to be accepted into the program/become a diesel mechanic.

Step 3

3. Applicant Testing

If you meet the program pre-requisites, Empire will contact you for further testing in the areas of mechanical aptitude, basic fundamental mechanical knowledge, and other areas including word knowledge, language usage, spatial relations, mechanical reasoning, verbal reasoning, numerical ability, perceptual speed and accuracy, and manual speed and dexterity. Also, you will be required to pass a drug screen, criminal background check, and social security verification. Based on the assessment results, Empire will contact the top candidates and schedule interviews.

Step 4

4. Applicant Interviews

The interview team from Empire will review all completed application packets and test results. Top candidates will be selected for interviews. Interviews will take place March through May. Candidates that are not selected for an interview or for the program will be notified by mail by the end of June. If you are not selected we encourage you to apply again next year.

Step 5

5. Applicants Selected and Notified

Once all interviews have been completed, Empire will select the freshman class of ThinkBIG Students. Final selection of students will be based on a combination of all test results and interview scores. Selected students will be notified by the beginning of July and classes begin in August.


Kick off your career with Empire’s ThinkBIG program and you’ll come out with BIG skills, BIG potential, and one of the best career opportunities in the heavy equipment industry. Quickly find answers and general information below to get started or contact us today at or 480-633-5441. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the ThinkBIG program requirements?

Pre-requisites include proof (official transcript) of a high school diploma or G.E.D. equivalency and satisfactory assessment test results (taken at MCC) to meet program entry requirements in math and english. For information on assessment tests you may contact MCC for further details.

To remain enrolled you must maintain a minimum GPA for retention in the program. Other factors are attendance, attitude, conduct, and demonstrating applied learning competence throughout the internship.

What is the ThinkBIG schedule and location?

The program consists of 16 week semesters, which run continuously throughout the two years. Each semester is broken down into two sessions. The 1st session consists of 8 weeks of classroom instruction (Monday-Friday 8am-5pm). The 2nd session consists of 8 weeks of PAID INTERNSHIP where you will be working in one of the shops at Empire. You will be paid (40 hours per week at $14.00 per hour) every week that you spend in the Internship.

All classes are held at the Empire Training Institute at 1855 S. Macdonald Dr. Mesa, AZ 85210.

What is the ThinkBIG dress code?

You will be required to purchase steel toed boots and wear long pants. Jeans are best due to durability. Pants must be in good repair, no tears, acid wash, etc. T-shirts are okay, as long as they are in good condition with no logos, offensive pictures or language. Uniforms will be ordered for you at the start of the program. They generally take about four weeks to arrive and are paid for by Empire. Empire will also provide your first pair of safety glasses.

How much does ThinkBIG cost and is there financial aid?

The following are estimated costs and are subject to change at any time

  • Approximately $1,000 tuition per semester (every 16 weeks) (MCC)
  • Approximately $100 lab fees per semester (every 16 weeks) (MCC)
  • Approximately $50 lab fees per semester (every 16 weeks) (Empire).
  • Required books for the semester (available at Mesa Community College bookstore)
  • Required steel-toed boots

Your tuition must be paid through MCC. Your lab fees for Empire can be paid by check or money order at the start of each 16 week semester. Checks need to be made out to Empire Southwest and can be given to your instructor. You will be provided with a receipt.

If you qualify, Mesa Community College offers student financial aid, loans and grants. After your acceptance into the program you may contact MCC for further details.

Will I be considered an Empire employee and receive benefits?

Your status is a full-time Mesa Community College student. Student medical insurance is available for purchase through Mesa Community College.

Can I work and go to school and/or miss days?

Working and going to school is an option, however it is not advised that you carry on a full-time job while in classes. During your 8 weeks of internship, it is not guaranteed that you will be working 1st shift. You are allowed to miss up to three days per semester. If you miss more than three days, you will be required to go before the curriculum board, where they will determine if you will be allowed to stay in the program based on different factors.

Am I guaranteed a job following ThinkBIG graduation?

Each graduate will be evaluated for a full-time position with Empire Southwest. While there are no guarantees, graduates with demonstrated knowledge, skills, and the right attitude have a high probability of receiving an offer for full time employment.

Are there other ThinkBIG locations other than Arizona?

Yes. Visit to view the complete list of participating dealer locations.

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