Taylor students seeking careers in the automotive industry will soon have access to the highest quality training and certifications available in diesel mechanics.

The new program is the result of what’s been called a groundbreaking partnership between Taylor ISD and Peterbilt Motors Company, an American-based truck manufacturer owned by PACCAR, and Rush Trucking, the authorized repair center for Peterbilt.

The idea for a partnership began in February 2019 when Taylor High School automotive technology teacher Mark Harwell was able to secure a special tour of the Peterbilt factory in Denton for his students, marking the first time for a high school to be granted access to the assembly plant.

During the welcome, Peterbilt representatives stressed the immediate need for diesel technicians and the impressive job opportunities available for well-trained students after graduation.

“Speaker Curtis Crisp told the group that 5,000 diesel mechanics are needed immediately, and in the next five years another 10,000 will be needed,” said Harwell. “It’s an area of increasingly higher need in the job market with the opportunity of high paying salaries right out of high school.”

Superintendent Keith Brown accompanied the group on the tour. Upon returning to Taylor, he wrote a letter to Peterbilt executives suggesting the idea of a partnership.

“If there is any way that Taylor ISD can partner with you in the future, we will gladly join you in any effort to create more technicians for your dealerships, or in any type of educational process that you may develop in the future,” said Brown. “We will pilot any program that can expand opportunities for our students. We are not scared.”

Harwell said Brown’s letter opened the door for numerous conversations between Taylor ISD and Peterbilt and Paccar.

“Over the next year, a lot of meetings and telephone conversations took place between myself, Mr. Brown and Peterbilt representatives about starting a new CTE (Career and Technology Education) diesel program at Taylor High School,” sad Harwell said. “The opportunity of good paying jobs for students who choose to go directly into the workforce was, and is, very appealing. It won’t be an easy task, but it could be very rewarding for our Taylor students, their families and the community.”

Taylor’s new diesel program is currently in the development phase with classes scheduled to begin in January. Half of the old gym behind TH Johnson Elementary, more recently used as a warehouse, is being converted into a diesel garage. The space is large enough to house a large semi-truck with room for a classroom, equipment and tools. An additional automotive teacher has been hired to allow Harwell to focus on developing and implementing the large (semi) truck diesel program, and two large engines have already been delivered by Paccar. Peterbilt will bring a truck to the site as soon as the facility is ready for it.

According to Harwell, the pilot program with Taylor will include access to Peterbilt’s training material, technical repair material, proprietary diagnostic software and equipment for students to learn from. If successful, the program being developed in Taylor ISD could lead to similar opportunities in high schools nationwide.

Harwell said the involvement of Rush Trucking, Peterbilt’s No. 1 repair center in the Texas area, is also significant given the number of locations they have nationwide. Rush is looking to have interns, job shadowing and potentially hiring workers straight out of high school to be diesel mechanics.

“This is a one of a kind project,” said Superintendent Brown. “It’s the only partnership Peterbilt has with any high school in the United states, providing the opportunity for our students to graduate as certified diesel mechanics and start out at very high paying jobs.”

Brown said that auto mechanics has experienced the largest growth of any CTE pathway over the past three years. The more immediate vision for the diesel program is to finish renovations to the site, which has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to enroll students to begin working toward certifications.

Whether pursuing the new diesel program or the more traditional automotive training, Harwell said all students will begin by taking an automotive basics class the first year. For the second year, students will choose either Auto 1 and remain at the high school, or Diesel 1 at the newly renovated site. After completing Diesel 1 and then Diesel 2, the final year would include the option of a practicum at Rush Trucking in Round Rock.

Brown believes that any student who is mechanically inclined will enjoy the opportunity of participating in the new diesel training program. He reminds area families that Taylor ISD has open enrollment and welcomes anyone who wants to enroll whether they live in the district or not.

Ultimately, Harwell believes the expansion of the automotive program is a good investment for the community.

“A lot of the kids who go to school here stay in the community and bring their money back here,” said Harwell. “So if they can go out and get good paying jobs right away, they’ll bring that money back with them. In a few years it could make a big impact on the community.”

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