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The Governor’s Office of Economic Development on Monday announced the expansion of the Utah Diesel Technician Pathways program to include the Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts.

OREM — One of the state's high-profile career development initiatives is increasing its reach to Utah County.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development on Monday announced the expansion of the Utah Diesel Technician Pathways program to include the Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts. Additionally, Mountainland Technical College and Utah Valley University will join the program.

Along with the new school districts, Geneva Rock and sister companies W.W. Clyde & Co. and Sunroc have joined the program’s 11 existing industry partners to support and train students.

Launched in 2016, the program has served more than 100 students in the Jordan and Canyons school districts who are currently going through the required curriculum.

The Diesel Tech Pathways program is designed to offer Utah students a straight route from high school and college to the workforce. The program starts in high school with the completion of select classes. Upon graduation, students will complete an internship with one of the diesel technician industry partners and then at least a year of training at one of the secondary education partners.

The plan is part of Talent Ready Utah started by Gov. Gary Herbert to improve the state's education system and workforce by concentrating on growing and enhancing job-training strategies to meet industry needs for more qualified workers.

The goal of Talent Ready Utah is to fill 40,000 high-skill, high-paying jobs by 2020, explained Kimberlee Carlile, director of industry and talent initiatives with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Jim Slade, branch manager for Komatsu Equipment Co. in Salt Lake City, said the program helps his industry maintain its competitive advantage by building a pipeline of qualified people ready to move into the workplace better prepared and well-trained.

"When they come to our facility, they catch on faster, and we can use them to keep equipment going for our customers," Slade said. "If the equipment is not running, they're not making money. These students are trained so they can jump right in and troubleshoot equipment."

The high-tech equipment requires specialized computer training that makes students from the Diesel Tech Pathways program highly sought after, he said.

Komatsu makes heavy-duty utility, construction and mining equipment that requires constant maintenance to keep customers' businesses running efficiently, Slade said.

The industry is forecasted to need between 1,800 and 2,500 new technicians over the next five years along the Wasatch Front, he said. Wages range from $40,000 per year to start to around $100,000 for experienced, veteran technicians — plus full benefits, Slade said.

"These skills will set you (up) for life," he said.

Herbert said the Diesel Tech Pathway program is an example of how the government can join together with private industry to develop creative answers to address workforce needs.

“Partnership between industry and education has made the program a success, and this proven model of collaboration will help us achieve our goals,” the governor said. “We welcome (industry partners) and the new school districts, and look forward to continued partnerships for proactive solutions to workforce challenges.”

Among the industry partners participating in the program are Cummins Rocky Mountain, Jackson Group, Peterbilt, Kenworth Sales Co., Kilgore, Komatsu Equipment Corp., Utah Transit Authority, Intermountain Bobcat, CR England, Thermo King, Wheeler Cat and Geneva Rock.

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Industry partners have provided schools with the most up-to-date technology, including new engines and complete tool sets.

“We’re excited to participate in such an exceptional program that creates jobs and trains potential employees to make an immediate contribution to our industry,” Geneva Rock President Jim Golding said. “We look forward to collaborating with our industry partners to continue innovating and investing in our future workforce and to develop the programs that will help us meet the dynamic demands of our industry.”