New diesel technology program created to meet industry needs

Preston DeWitt is learning how to take apart an engine and then piece it back together. To get a perfect score on this project he must make sure the engine runs, and runs well. Preston is getting his hands greasy in Diesel Technology II.

“Traditional learning is boring for me,” said the Meridian Academy junior. “I enjoy executing what I learn through my hands.”

Preston travels to the West Ada School District’s Career and Technical Education Center twice a week to work in the diesel technology shop located on the Meridian High campus.

He enrolled in the program because he plans to land a part-time job as a technician after graduating high school to help pay for college. Preston wants to study English and become a teacher.

“I’m not just waking up to go to math class, but I look forward to waking up and learning how trucks work,” he said. “I need to pay for college somehow.”

The diesel technology program, launched in August, was designed to meet industry demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, diesel mechanics and technicians are in high demand across the nation. The demand for mechanics is expected to grow by 9 percent by 2026.

The wages can range from $12—$18 an hour.

Steve Rayburn has been preparing students to become technicians for 16 years working as an instructor at Boise State University and the College of Western Idaho (CWI). He’s now training high school students.

Rayburn created the West Ada School District curriculum and partnered with CWI to build the program. 

“My reason for teaching has changed over the years,” he said. “I hope to help high school students navigate to finding a path that matters towards a career.”

The goal is to prepare students to go straight into the industry or continue education at CWI where students can receive an associates degree.

“The industry has a big gap,” Rayburn said. “The ones in the field are coming close to retirement.”

The program is broken down in three levels:

  • Diesel Technology I: a semester class
  • Diesel Technology II: a year-long class
  • Diesel Technology II: a year-long class that starts in fall 2019

This year, 136 students are enrolled in the program.

Students learn cognitive information on how to operate tools and equipment first, and then they complete the class through hands-on learning. Students complete tasks, and then are measured on proficiency. The focus is for students to learn how engines operate and understand safety procedures.

Students work on commercial trucks that were donated by CWI. The college has also borrowed out tools for students to use.

Rayburn is working on an agreement with CWI for students to receive dual credits.

“If a student has a vision, I will do anything to put them in the right direction,” Rayburn said.

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