Building for the future

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Updated May 14, 2019

I have seen the future. It’s in Fresno, Calif. I’m referring to the new diesel and heavy truck career technical education (CTE) pathway introduced last month at Duncan Polytechnical Career Pathways High School.

If that school sounds familiar to you it’s because I’ve written about Duncan Poly in this space and online before. Duncan Poly is a one-of-a-kind high school within the Fresno Unified School District that specializes in career education.

Open to all students within the district, Duncan Poly offers nearly a dozen dedicated CTE pathways for young people eager to learn a trade and earn valuable professional certifications for their future career or broaden their knowledge base before entering college.

For more than three decades, Duncan Poly has shepherded its students through their high school experience and into colleges and professional environments with the skills and aptitude necessary to find immediate success.

In touring the school’s new diesel and heavy truck pathway last month, I can say without hesitation that Duncan Poly has developed the most comprehensive high school diesel tech program I have ever seen.

Furthermore, I’d bet the Duncan Poly pathway is up there with some of the nation’s most respected post-secondary diesel programs. It’s that impressive.

I can’t possibly summarize the entirety of the program here — I don’t have the time nor the pages — but I need to mention some highlights from my day at Duncan Poly.

I’ll start with the building. It’s new and utterly amazing. Thanks to fantastic cooperation between the Fresno school board and California’s Central Valley trucking community, Duncan Poly’s new diesel shop has been outfitted with some of the most advanced and valuable training resources found in our industry.

There are several trucks (not just medium- and heavy-duty tractors, but also day cabs and sleepers) and a trailer, engines from multiple OEMs and a series of workstations geared around vehicle systems such as wheel end, electrical, aftertreatment, hydraulics and more.

The curriculum is equally amazing. Heavy Duty Truck Program Instructor Eric Rubio and the Duncan Poly administrative team, again with the help of area industry partners, have created a three-year CTE program that meets or exceeds many programs found at the college level in its scope and comprehensiveness.

Students in the diesel pathway begin their technical education as sophomores with an introduction to the industry by taking a classroom-only course before entering the workshop as juniors.

After two years of hands-on instruction and apprenticeship opportunities, Rubio says seniors graduating from the pathway are prepared to walk right into a service bay and start their careers.

“I think a majority of these kids didn’t know what they were going to do after high school. But now that they do, and they’ve found they have a passion for it, they are really excited and ready to be challenged,” he says.

I believe Rubio is right. I spoke with some of his students during the school’s open house and their excitement and enthusiasm for their educations and careers is infectious. I’m rooting for all of them to enter and thrive in our industry in the coming years.

But my biggest takeaway from my trip to Fresno was the replication potential of it. Every one of you could bring a program like this to your community. I have little doubt. It’s all about initiative. It’s about taking the time to find the right school administrators who understand the value of a program like this.

I know it wouldn’t be easy. But I also know it’s not impossible. Fresno is proof of that.

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