ST. GEORGE — During an event at Dixie Technical College on Tuesday, the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced the expansion of a statewide initiative into Washington County.
The Utah Diesel Technician Pathways program was implemented through the Talent Ready Utah initiative which develops and enhances programs to meet specific industry needs. Gov. Gary Herbert first announced the initiative in 2017.
The Diesel Tech Pathways program provides a direct path for high school and college students into the diesel tech workforce where students can earn certification that guarantees an interview with participating companies while earning hands-on experience through courses and shadowing industry jobs.
The program was founded to combat the shortage of technicians the governor’s office and industry professionals see on the horizon.
“Our economy is pulled along with diesel engines,” said Val Hale, executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “If we don’t have people like you who are willing and able to keep those engines operating, our economy would tank.”
Ben Hart, the deputy director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said meaningful growth has become an increasingly important aspect of Utah, and economics and education are two of the pillars behind the exponential, statewide growth.
With this most recent announcement, he said, the program is bringing Southern Utah businesses and broader education institutions together to continue to facilitate this growth.
The program was also created to ensure curriculums across the state are consistent, the teachings are current, and industry professionals will engage with students. It currently partners with over 50 industry companies and eight new companies within Washington County to support Utah students.
Hundreds of students have enrolled in the Diesel Tech Pathways program throughout northern Utah, but Southern Utah will bring a unique educational opportunity to the program. Schools that partner with the program, the latest being Dixie Technical College, are provided with new, up-to-date technology for students to learn, including new engine models and complete toolsets.
In tandem with the program, Dixie Technical College developed a curriculum focusing on the specific skills students will need to begin a successful career in diesel technology while the institution continues to work with companies to provide students with active learning experiences.
“The future of transportation is going to look much different than it does today,” Hart said. “But the skills you’re going to get in this program are foundational. They allow you to build your skillset.”
Trucks are here to stay, he said, and people will always need goods, so learning skills as a diesel technician will make students a relevant commodity in the workforce today and for years to come. Dixie Technical College President Kelle Stephens said the trucking business is the lifeblood of Washington County’s economy, adding that in St. George, the city is economically viable when there are trucks on the road.
“Everything that comes in and out of St. George comes and goes on a truck,” she said. “Without these big rigs, we would be in trouble.”
This pathway, Hart said, is helping the state move away from the flawed presumption that the only way to be successful is through a four-year degree. The Utah Diesel Technician Pathways program provides students with short-term training that can be integrated into education later on if necessary but also stands on its own, giving students market-relevant and profitable skills.
Program leaders chose to expand into Southern Utah, he said, because the area has become a hub for transportation and logistics. As the region continues to grow and develop, technician jobs are going to become increasingly imperative to the area.
“St. George is growing,” Hart said. “Twenty years from now, it’s going to look much different; 20 years ago it looked much different. Having the transportation needs met, having the workforce there, is going to allow this area to continue to grow at a sustainable rate and make sure that it doesn’t get ahead of itself or it doesn’t get behind in terms of services.”
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