East Valley Institute of Technology offers hands-on approach; big-rig trucks donated

East Valley Institute of Technology Superintendent Dr. Sally Downey checks out a donated big-rig truck. (Independent Newsmedia, Richard H. Dyer)

Queen Creek resident Tim Bartlemay, 18, is learning how to troubleshoot vehicle engines at East Valley Institute of Technology’s diesel-technologies program and plans to have a career in the railroad industry.

Queen Creek High School graduate Tim Bartlemay, 18, is in the East Valley Institute of Technology’s diesel-technologies program. (Independent Newsmedia, Richard H. Dyer)

“Right now we’re working on taking apart the engines and putting them back together, just learning what parts go where, what certain parts are and things like that,” the Queen Creek High School graduate said.

“I hope to eventually work for a railroad because I like trains. I hope to drive trains,” he said.

EVIT’s diesel technologies program recently received a donation from Chicago-based manufacturer Navistar International Corp. of commercial big-rig trucks worth more than $400,000, which Mr. Bartlemay said will greatly help students in the program.

“It’s definitely going to help get us used to the newer technology, the bigger engines, things like that,” he said.

Mr. Bartlemay recently joined other students in the diesel and automotive technology programs at the EVIT Main Campus, 1601 W. Main St. in Mesa, to thank Navistar officials for the donation.

Two International ProStar trucks, an International DuraStar truck and two International WorkStar trucks were donated, according to a release.

There is a huge current and growing need for diesel mechanics, John MacHardy, Navistar vice president for the west region, said.
“In about the next six, seven years there’s probably a need for another 25,000 technicians across our country,” he said.

“We have a need to address this and that’s why we want to support and partner with groups like EVIT to focus on STEM education,” Mr. MacHardy said of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Navistar is a holding company whose subsidiaries and affiliates produce International-brand commercial and military trucks, proprietary diesel engines and school and commercial buses. An affiliate also provides truck and diesel engine service parts, according to a release. The business website is navistar.com.

EVIT offers 45 career and technical education programs tuition-free for high school students who reside in 10 east Valley districts – Apache Junction, Queen Creek, J.O. Combs, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, Higley and Fountain Hills. Students spend a half-day at EVIT and a half-day at their high school. School districts provide transportation to EVIT for most students. Career-training programs are also available for adults.

The programs vary from 3D animation to a fire science academy, massage therapy, culinary arts, welding and construction, according to an EVIT fact sheet.

At the podium is Shon Rasmussen, fleet account manager for RWC Group and an advisor with EVIT’s diesel program,. In the background at the right are two of the Navistar trucks that were donated. (Independent Newsmedia, Richard H. Dyer)

“All of the different trades we have going in here are needed in our industry,” Shon Rasmussen, fleet account manager for RWC Group and an advisor with EVIT’s diesel program, said at the ceremony.

“Not everybody is going to be a rocket scientist. We need the firemen. We need an auto mechanic. We need a diesel technician in the worst of ways – our industry is suffering from the lack of it,” he said.

A total of 77 students are in EVIT’s diesel program, 156 in the auto-technologies program and 18 in the collision-repair program, Steve Bernasek, EVIT diesel instructor, said in an interview.

“As an instructor it is very rewarding to see how one can come into the program and not have much knowledge about the industry and when I look at you after a couple months of learning, I see all of you (making) accomplishments and you are all going to be great technicians,” he said at the ceremony.

In addition to Navistar, other donations to the program include five trucks from George Brazil and five Panasonic laptop computers from Salt River Project, officials said.

“If we didn’t have our industry partners, there’s no way we could allow our students to be trained on the latest and greatest,” EVIT Superintendent Dr. Sally Downey said in the ceremony announcing the Navistar donation.

“Look around. Do you think a school could afford this kind of donation? No way. And if it wasn’t for our industry partners with Navistar stepping up and realizing that and wanting to train the next generation, then we wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

“With these laptops, the students will be able to perform diagnostic procedures with the trucks donated by Navistar,” Mr. Bernasek said of the computers donated by SRP.

Truck-driving school

EVIT plans to operate a truck-driving school beginning in 2019.

The program will teach how to drive dump and cement trucks to long-haul big rigs donated by Navistar and smaller vehicles such as forklifts, Steve Waldvogel, in charge of EVIT’s customized training for business and industry, said.

“We’re going to try to figure out the best way possible to suit all of the industry needs,” he said.

“It’s not going to be a really long program, because it’s just focusing on getting your (commercial driver’s license) but we’ll work directly with business and industry to customize that to what training they need and potentially whether it’s cement, long-haul, dump truck, whatever,” he said.

Classes are to be on 13 acres of EVIT-owned land near the railroad tracks south of the main campus, he said.

A J. O. Combs Unified School District official and three candidates for Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board said the truck-driving school will help area students.

“The J.O. Combs USD always appreciates the opportunity for our students to attend EVIT’s main campus programs, especially those that offer a career pathway to high-skill, high-wage, high-demand job opportunities,” John Scrogham, career and technical education coordinator for J. O. Combs Unified School District, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“We look forward to hearing more about this new program and sharing it with our students,” he said.

Chelsea Connolly

Chelsea Connolly, a candidate for AJUSD Governing Board, likes that EVIT will start a truck-driving school.

“Having a diverse selection of programs to choose from at EVIT is important. EVIT provides career-oriented classes to our students that have helped several students find jobs right out of high school. The knowledge the students can gain and the hands-on experience can really put some students one step ahead after graduation,” she said in an e-mailed response to questions.

She is one of four people running for two seats on the AJUSD Governing Board at the Nov. 6 election. The other three are Braden Biggs, Gilbert Cancio and Dena Kimble.

Dena Kimble

“The addition of a truck driving course at EVIT will undoubtedly enhance the education of students within our district,” AJUSD Vice President Kimble said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“It’s our goal and responsibility to prepare students for success after graduation by either having them ready to enter college or alternatively, participate in a trade. The more opportunities and choices that we can provide students concerning a career path, the better chance they will remain focused and enthusiastic about their education,” she said.

“Our district partners with EVIT so as to ensure that students who may be more interested in a trade rather than a traditional college or university after graduation have the opportunity to explore their options,” Ms. Kimble said.

Braden Biggs

“Truck driving is still one if not the largest overall employers in the nation,” AJUSD board candidate Mr. Biggs said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“By training our kids in this field we are setting them and our job market up for success. I have a lot of family members who are truck drivers back in the Midwest. They have a great life and have made a great living. This is a very important job in the world,” he said.

EVIT district

The EVIT district is governed by a board of directors who are elected to four-year terms.

As a joint technological education district, EVIT receives funding through local, state, county and federal monies, based on student enrollment. It may levy a rate of five cents per $100 of secondary net assessed property valuation to generate the local contribution. Any amount needed to fund the required formula above the amount generated through the local tax is funded through state funds, according to evit.com/district.

In addition to the EVIT Main Campus in Mesa, it offers courses at area school districts and at branch campuses in Fountain Hills, adjacent to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and in Apache Junction.

“The partnership between AJUSD and EVIT is very positive. It gives our students more choices concerning their educational and career paths, allows us to offer more programs we otherwise could not afford and allows students interested in a trade occupation to remain motivated,” AJUSD Governing Board Vice President Kimble said.

EVIT programs in human anatomy and physiology for medical careers, medical assistant, construction, culinary arts, welding and introduction to information technology and engineering careers are offered at Apache Junction High School, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive, according to evit.com/about/campuses.

“AJUSD partners with EVIT because it opens a wealth of opportunity to our students,” AJUSD board candidate Ms. Connolly said.

“EVIT can be a very good path for all students, especially those students that have no interest in going to college or cannot financially afford it. As a district, we should always be looking for different avenues that best fit each student,” she said.

“We partner with EVIT to ensure our kids get an education in areas of study that AJUSD can’t or doesn’t offer,” AJUSD board candidate Mr. Biggs said.

“Areas like truck driving, aviation, radio studies, nursing, etc. These valuable skill-based learning classes that our kids are taking allow them to be ahead of the curve upon graduation,” he said.

“Depending on the rigor of the course, some kids may graduate with a certificate in hand and be career-ready upon completion of their senior year at (Apache Junction High School). The EVIT/AJUSD partnership is an extraordinarily valuable partnership,” Mr. Biggs said.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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