A driving force

Diesel engine class offers career training, motivation

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— Hayden High School senior Tyler Manzanares always has been interested in engines, but his career plans are becoming a little clearer thanks to a new course at his school.

Last year, Manzanares found out a heavy equipment and diesel mechanics course would likely be offered this year, and he signed up.

"I was thinking about going into mechanics (after school)," Manzanares said. "If I don't go into diesel mechanics, I might get into (agriculture) business or ag education."

Like the welding class he took last year, the mechanics class is one of several vocational education classes offered at the school. Manzanares said it gives him and his fellow students more options for what to do after school.

On Tuesday, diesel mechanics course instructor Richard "Festus" Hagins was teaching his three students the nuts and bolts of the trade, literally. After learning about the 12-point washer head and hex bolts and the wing, acorn and lock nuts - to name just a few - Hagins supervised the students as they dismantled a diesel engine. It is one of two engines Wagner Equipment donated for the class. The construction equipment company also donated a tool set and, most important, Hagins' time. Hagins is a journeyman technician and instructor and has been a mechanic at Wagner Equipment for 27 years.

To offer the class, the school has entered into a partnership with Wagner Equipment, a Caterpillar dealership in Hayden. 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.

"In my business, we are not getting the qualified people to do this work, and this is stuff that has to be done to keep the economy going," Hagins said. "Overall, the trades are hurting. The young kids are going elsewhere. I sit back and wonder who is going to replace me in 10 years.

Demand outnumbers spots available in most Hayden vocational classes. Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes and vocational teacher Kevin Kleckler have been working to expand the number and variety of the courses offered. They also plan to add on to facilities to create more room for the classes.

Hayden students have gone on to work in the trades, which can be quite lucrative. At Wagner, a diesel mechanic can make anywhere between $40,000 and $70,000 after just a few years of work.

That has caught Manzanares' attention, who said he wants to work for Wagner in Hayden after school.

"I like this valley," he said.

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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