Diesel Technology Is Growing Segment Of Area School’s Career & Technical Center

The Center Has The Support Of More Than A Dozen Area Industry Leaders Including General Equipment & Butler

WEST FARGO, N.D. — High school students at a number of schools in Cass County are getting hands on experience in a number of potential future career fields.

One of those fields is diesel technology. It is an industry with a continuing need for good workers.

While career and technical education has been around for decades, Cass County Career and Technical Education Center is in just its 6th year.

Its mission: place the right student, in the right pathway, for the right reasons!

But first, students and parents need to know they are here with programs that could lead to future career success.

“Now you can smell it can’t you?,” said diesel instructor Ralph Elletson.

It seems diesel technology revolves around “smells”

“Anyone else want to take a smell of what this overcharged battery smells like?”, said Elletson.

A couple of students take the challenge.

For many students at Sheyenne High School, it’s the odors that first grab their attention.

“Usually it’s when they’re walking through the hallways and there like ‘what’s that funny smell?’ because we have unique aromas coming through the shop whether we’re welding, or cutting metal or grinding,” said Elletson.

Kenny Willis is a Sheyenne High School Senior.

“Right now we’re learning a lot of basic stuff like how to drill and tap holes, batteries stuff like that how to keep your car electrical system safe.”

Willis already knows what he wants to be when he “grows” up.

“I’d like to be a service technician.”

This young man from a family he describes as “gearheads” is looking to enroll at NDSCS, get sponsored and work for Case IH. This program provides the path.

“It was actually really beneficial,” said Willis.

“It gave me the chance to go down to Whap and see what they had to offer down there and Elletson got me in touch with who I needed to be in touch with so if it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I would have had any idea how to set that up.”

Cass County CTE Center offers this program to students in West Fargo Public Schools, Fargo Public Schools, Central Cass and Northern Cass Schools.
They have the backing of more than a dozen of the biggest names in the agriculture, construction and equipment businesses.

Jon Shilling, President of General Equipment & Supplies, is a partner of the program.

“Our main goal is to get outstanding workforce. It’s very difficult right now to find good diesel technicians. We have a partnership program with NDSCS that we’re constantly working to recruit students from.”

Shilling says students need to know that there are other options than just four year schools.

“They can go to a two year technical school, ah they can potentially if they get good grades come out with no debt, little to no debt, they can get a career straight out the gate where they’re earning $60,000-plus with overtime opportunities and there’s plenty of room for advancement in the industry.”

Rebecca Rensvold of Butler is another industry partner.

“What I’ve learned, I’ve been with Butler for 6 years now in the recruitment side of our business, is that young people are naturally gravitating towards industries that are in front of them all the time like health care and technology. They don’t think about the diesel industry and the impact that it has on them.”

The oil fields in western North Dakota are having a huge impact on the industry.

“At the current moment if you were to look at our technician needs we would be right around 50 and then other job openings in the organization anything from sales to parts to different support positions,” said Rensvold.

Let’s take a sophomore for example: what should they do if they are interested in a diesel tech career?

“I would encourage a job shadow this year as a sophomore. Come spend four to eight hours with us alongside a technician and see what he’s working on,” she said.

“The sponsors that we have for this program are phenomenal,” said Elletson.

“We have advisory board meetings that come in and sit down and they find out how the class is progressing and if I need or have any wants.”

His shop is full of donations from schools like M State and NDSCS, including the engines.

“West Fargo Public Schools obviously they were visionary in committing a space to start the program but then beyond that we have the support from at least 15 diesel organizations from ag, construction to trucking sitting on our advisory table helping us,” said Dr. Denise Jonas, the director of the Cass County Career and Technical Education Center.

“We’re expanding. Every year we’re expanding which is a positive thing,” said Elletson.

He expects the Diesel 2 program to go from two to four units next year and the jobs are there.

“We have quite a few diesel technician positions open we’re always leaving those out looking for good people,” according to Shilling.

“In five years going from 20 students to 30 students to 40 students and our goal was 55 for one teacher and we are at 55 this year,” said Dr. Jonas.

And that’s just in diesel. They also offer programs in agriculture, health sciences and of course aviation. Three of their recent graduates were among the first to get scholarships from Allegiant. These programs are just one more tool in preparing a successful future workforce.

Dr. Jonas said, “We’re really hoping that we can have a three-legged stool between our government, our partnerships and k-12 education to bring this together.”

And students will soon begin deciding their class schedules for next year.

Talk to a teacher or school counselor if you’re interested in getting into the diesel technology program or any of the other programs offered by Cass County CTE Center.

We have a link to the center’s website here.

Categories: Agriculture, Business, Local News, North Dakota News