Diesel tech program offered at career center

NEW CUMBERLAND – A high school vocational program in the late 1980s lit the spark for Jim Luevano’s lifelong interest in diesel engines. His love of everything diesel stretched from the truck dealership service department where he worked to the diesel Volkswagen Rabbit that he drove.

“I’ve been around diesels for a long time,” said Luevano, 43, of Weirton.

Luevano now wants to transmit that knowledge to a new generation of students.

The New Cumberland native is the instructor for the newly inaugurated diesel technician program at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center in Hancock County.

The program is just the latest attempt by Hancock County Schools to match its career technical offerings with real-world demands, said Martin Hudek, director of Secondary, Adult and Career Education.

“As with our commercial driver’s license program, we decided to introduce this (diesel) program after talking with local business and industry leaders,” Hudek said. “Both have been put in place because of the need that has been expressed by the energy industries that have come into the area.”

Luevano said the Career Center’s program will be geared toward over-the-road trucks, while also incorporating instruction about the heavy equipment, pumps and generators of the burgeoning oil and gas industry.

“There is a definite need for qualified diesel technicians in the oil and gas industry,” Luevano said. “Everything seems to be diesel-related.”

The eight diesel technician students, juniors and seniors from Oak Glen and Weir high schools, will spend their first year in the program learning the fundamentals of diesel equipment technology, preventive maintenance and electronic engine controls. Advanced students eventually will spend their second year learning diesel engine components, electrical systems and diesel support systems.

Luevano said the diesel technician program will prepare students for diesel apprenticeship programs in the real world or to continue their education for full certification.

A 1988 graduate of Oak Glen High School, Luevano followed the latter path – taking welding and auto body courses at the Career Center and then attending the Ohio Diesel Technical Institute in Cleveland. He graduated in 1990 with a master’s certification in automotive and diesel technology.

Since then, diesel mechanics has been both a vocation and avocation for Luevano. Prior to being hired as the new diesel instructor, Luevano worked for two years in the maintenance department at Hancock County Schools and coached girls’ soccer and boys’ track at Weir High School.

“I’ve been very anxious to get this program up and running,” he said. “I would hope that our program will ignite local students’ interest in the growing diesel field.”

Luevano is responsible for course tools, the curriculum and other shop-related matters. He also has two new Mack MP8 engines that were donated to the program to assist with his instruction.

“I want to build the class to the point where, if students should decide to go into diesel mechanics, they would already have a good understanding of diesel technology before they continue their education,” he said. “I want to see the kids who come into the program to leave with something.”

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)