Cleburne High School’s new Heavy Equipment/Diesel Technician program has been awarded $95,145, earmarked for tooling, storage and related materials, as the recipient of a Jobs and Education for Texans Grant through the Texas Workforce Commission.
This latest opportunity within the CHS Career and Technical Education program is designed as a four-year skills-building initiative, including the availability of paid internships for advanced students.
“The JET grant is available to public school districts and community colleges and provides funding for start-up programs to meet high demand job needs,” CISD Career and Technical Education Director Mark McClure said. “It was a lengthy process in applying, but it was definitely worth it.”
McClure said he believes the heavy equipment/diesel technician program and its goals, current and long-term, coupled with the business and industry partnerships that have been established made Cleburne a strong contender for the grant.
“There are tons of diesel trucks and vehicles on the road, and they need technicians,” McClure said. “In offering this program, we are trying to fill a void. It will ultimately be a three-year process to get the equipment, components, training and aid to have our graduates ready for that next level. The students graduating from this four-year program will be true technicians—not grease monkeys turning wrenches. When they lift up the hood, they will utilize technology, data and diagnostics in determining the problem.
“We are one of the first public high schools to have this kind of program that is heavy equipment and diesel themed. It will also be a flagship program within the territories of our industry partners. They will be rotating their equipment through our classes to give students industry experience. Our kids will be able to walk right up to a machine from their product lines to test and enhance their diagnostic skills.”
The addition of the diesel tech program to Cleburne CTE has been more than a year in the making. Industry allies HOLT Caterpillar and RDO John Deere have added a lot of torque in getting the program off the ground.
“We work closely with the automotive program at Hill College, but we really haven’t done anything automotive-wise in Cleburne CTE since the 90s,” McClure said. “This will allow our freshmen and sophomores a better start in this career pathway. Our juniors and seniors can peel off and go into the program at Hill, while those who have that passion for diesel engines will continue here and enter internships we have with HOLT CAT and RDO John Deere.”
“Students can leave our high school and make a nice wage from what they have learned, and they can also continue to build on their skills with more credentials they gain on the job. The nice thing about this is John Deere and Caterpillar have their own employee training facilities and certification programs. The education for those who enter this line of work doesn’t stop.”
With the launch of the diesel tech program, the first year of skills-based instruction is now underway. Students enrolled in Principles of Transportation will be introduced to the internal combustion engine and the basic electrical system. They will also achieve the OSHA Ten-Hour Certification. In this inaugural year, students from all grade levels are represented including senior Kyle Boy, who describes himself as a self-taught mechanic.
“I have learned on my own how to work on my 2000 GMC Sierra 1500,” he said. “This class will teach me how to work on diesel engines. I have decided I want to be a mechanic once I get out of high school. I’ll probably build on what I learn here and go on to Hill College. I’d like to work for a small company then work my way up to bigger ones.”
Freshman Landon Moore is coming in with plans to continue through to his senior year, led by his interest in engines.
“The passion of working on engines, working on cars — all that stuff brought me here,” he said. “I want to be a mechanic. I heard about the diesel technician program in eighth grade. My parents felt I should take this class. They know this is my thing. If I stick with this all four years, I think it will help me be successful.”
McClure says that while these are early days for Cleburne’s Heavy Equipment/Diesel Technician program, eyes are already on the future — and it’s exciting.
“We are building as we go, with this first year mapped out and in place,” he said. “We have a couple of upper classmen we want to get ready if internships become open in the second semester. This was a component in CTE we were missing. I think with this addition it would be very hard for a kid not to find something they are passionate about within CTE.
“When I was growing up, I thought I wanted to be a mechanic. I worked at Meek’s Garage during the summer and on breaks during college. I learned a lot, but through those experiences I decided I wanted to work on cars as a hobby. That’s what this is all about—exposing kids to what they like, to see if it’s what they want to do in their life.”
The latest element in the Cleburne CTE program has attracted a lot of interest — and not just from students.
“We’ve already got people wanting to come see this,” McClure said. “I had a visitor from Texas CTE tell me Cleburne is the new hot spot, that there’s nothing like it around. To hear that from one who sees and works with programs across the state, that’s very exciting.”