Hayden Hayden High School's vocational education program is expanding.
The school has entered into a partnership with Wagner Equipment, a Caterpillar dealership on the west side of Hayden. Wagner will provide the instructor, materials and training tools necessary to teach a heavy equipment and diesel engine mechanics course beginning this fall.
It is a win-win situation for the school and Wagner. It means little or no cost to the school and another technical class will be available in addition to the numerous welding, automotive and woodworking classes that exist. For Wagner, it is a way to train potential future employees in an area where there is high demand.
Demand outnumbers spots available in Hayden vocational classes. Superintendent Mike Luppes and vocational teacher Kevin Kleckler have been working to expand the number and variety of courses offered.
"It's an area that we have kids with a lot of interest in," Luppes said. "I don't think we'll have any problem filling that class."
Kleckler said the heavy equipment mechanics class would be the first such class offered at a Colorado high school.
"We're trying to take our vocational program to the next level," Kleckler said.
Jeff Rosendale, Wagner equipment manager, said it is difficult to find people to fill the mechanic jobs. It is a trend that has been developing for 10 years, and Rosendale hopes the new class will spawn some future employees.
"The earlier we can get them interested, the better off we are going to be in getting them into this industry," Rosendale said.
After just a couple years working in the trade, Rosendale said diesel mechanics can make anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000.
Rosendale said the course could act as a recruiting tool for Wagner. He said the most talented students would be offered apprenticeships with the company. Completing the two-year training program would guarantee them a job with Wagner and an associate's degree.
Wagner has offices worldwide, but Rosendale thinks many of the Hayden students who take up the trade will stick around.
"Our experience has shown that when people get out and into the working world, their preference is to come back home," Rosendale said.
Wagner diesel mechanic Richard "Festus" Hagins plans to teach the class. The partnership allows Hagins to spend two hours each day to prepare for and teach the class.
"It has always been a lifelong goal of his to be a teacher in this field," Rosendale said.