A diesel mechanic apprentice is responsible for performing various repair procedures on diesel engines under the close supervision of an experienced journeyman mechanic. Like regular diesel mechanics, apprentices can work in virtually any capacity that involves diesel engines. Some diesel mechanic apprentices repair automobiles and trucks, while others work on diesel electric trains, in marine applications or on heavy equipment. Throughout the course of an apprenticeship program, a diesel mechanic apprentice will typically perform both diagnostic and repair work and may learn to use various computerized diagnostic tools. In addition to repairing actual diesel engines, apprentices also learn to diagnose and repair other related mechanical systems depending on their particular areas of specialization.
Diesel mechanic apprenticeship programs are designed to provide job training experience to people who have little or no prior background in the field. The availability of apprenticeship programs varies from one area to another, and many employers are not willing to make the necessary investment of time and resources to train new mechanics in this way. When apprenticeship programs do exist, they often consist of both practical and technical instruction.
Many diesel mechanic apprentice programs stipulate the number of hours that the apprentice must log. The specific number of hours varies among programs, but they are often spread out over the course of up to four years. Most of the hours are typically practical in nature, in that the apprentice needs to spend them working under the supervision of a journeyman. A smaller number of hours are usually dedicated to technical instruction in the areas of reading diagrams and blueprints, diesel engine theory and diagnostic procedures.
In most cases, a diesel mechanic apprentice will observe the work of a journeyman and also perform diagnostics and repairs of his own while under close supervision. The actual diagnostic and repair work can vary from one application to another. A diesel mechanic apprentice who works in the automotive field will learn how to perform repairs on car and truck engines in addition to other related mechanical systems. Since modern diesel cars and trucks make heavy use of electronic components, diesel mechanic apprentices will typically also receive instruction in computer diagnostics.
Other applications require a diesel mechanic apprentice to perform different procedures. Apprentices who work with diesel electric locomotives will typically learn to diagnose and repair those engines in addition to the other mechanical components found in trains. Marine diesel mechanic apprentices will similarly be required to repair those engines in addition to other systems such as bilge pumps, and heavy equipment apprentices may receive instruction in hydraulic repairs.