ELKTON — As Cecil County Public School leaders, county government officials and business partners cut the ribbon on the Cecil County School of Technology’s new diesel technician program Monday, they officially welcomed the first class of students to the program.

County Executive Alan McCarthy noted that he has been in county government since the inception of the CCST’s expansion to its home on Appleton Road.

Still a county councilman in September 2013, McCarthy was among the councilmembers who voted to approve a resolution that allowed the county to purchase the former Basell building in Elkton to expand the CCST.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am of this building and all of the work that’s gone into it by so many dedicated Cecil County residents and also employees. So thank you and congratulations to all that you’ve done,” McCarthy said before the ribbon cutting.

McCarthy highlighted the many industries Cecil County offers currently and hopes to further expand.

“With more than 78,000 acres of farmland, agricultural industry continues to be Cecil County’s largest economic contributor — powered largely by large diesel engines,” he said. “Cecil County’s close proximity to the Bay and its many tributaries and major shipping channels shows that the maritime industry is alive and well. Warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing businesses, all have staked a root here and many of them are growing up from the ground level.”

The county has had to advance its water, gas and sewer infrastructure to facilitate and encourage continued economic expansion, McCarthy said.

Among those industries and the supporting infrastructures, he said there is one common denominator: the growing need for trained diesel technicians.

“The unique and specialized knowledge of repairing and maintaining these diesel engines is imperative and critical to the industries right here in Cecil County, and that translates to good, high-paying jobs and careers for our citizens and students,” he said. “Students who graduate from school with industry-recognized trade certificates and real hands-on experiences are truly valued and high in demand, especially in this area.”

Brian Seccurro, instructor for the diesel technician program, is confident that “big stuff is going to come out of this.”

“You have 22 people here that give value to what I did for 22 years, turning wrenches,” he said. “They’re excited about it. They want to learn what it’s like.”

The “new wave of change,” as Seccurro calls this first class, could not come at a better time.

According to Seccurro, who taught auto and diesel training at a career college, there is a scarcity of people looking to become diesel technicians.

“There’s a huge deficit in techs,” he said. “There’s not a lot of young people coming out of high school that want to just go straight into it. My background, I worked at a career college teaching auto and diesel, and the numbers are dropping there too because even post-secondary there’s not a lot of young people that really recognize that there’s a need for this in the career field.”

But that deficit also presents an opportunity for young people looking for a career in a much-needed trade that also lets them exercise skills they’ve honed in traditional classrooms, Seccurro said.

“They can apply those math skills that they learned in their home schools and it’s challenging for them,” he said. “It’s not just turning wrenches or something mechanical; it’s mentally challenging.”

High school junior Lane Chaffin, whose home school is Elkton High School, said he is planning to enlist in the military, but it is comforting to know he will have opportunities in the diesel field when he returns.

“It’s a really good opportunity to get me into what I want to do when I’m older … It’s definitely going to help me in my future career as a diesel mechanic,” Chaffin said.

Justin Church, who is also a junior and whose home school is Bohemia Manor High School, said he got involved with the diesel program because he wanted something fun and different to do.

“It expands on what I know and everything about the job is what I love,” he said.

Since beginning the new school year, Seccurro said he and his students have been learning about workplace safety and professional behavior, including safe use of equipment, appropriate uniform and language usage, how to work with chemicals, fire extinguisher safety, and how to prevent fires and accidents in the workshop.

“Everything’s got to start with safe practices … Some of it is geared toward their personal safety, but also toward trade skills that help you be a professional technician,” he said, adding that next they will be getting into tools and measurements, including how to measure using ten thousandths of an inch.

Nicole Parr, program coordinator for career and technical education, said the diesel program had a quicker turnaround than she had originally expected.

“We set out a timeline of September 2020 [as the completion date],” she said. “About two weeks later, Dr. Lawson rolled up and said ‘Next year. Make it happen.’ I said ‘Okay, we’re going to make it happen.’”

Parr said Vulcan Materials Company has committed to provide $75,000 over the next two years — $25,000 cash this year, $25,000 in equipment, and $25,000 with potential for more if needed to get the program up and running.

Council President Bob Meffley congratulated the students for being the first class in the diesel program.

“Diesel mechanics may be a dirty job, but it’s a job that’s in demand,” Meffley said. “I congratulate all the students that are willing to step away from the desk and turn to a wrench … You’re blazing the trail for everyone else.”

Meanwhile, Board of Education President William Malesh voiced his support for the learning and career opportunities the program will provide.

“This is such an exciting program. People don’t realize the job market is screaming for you … You’ve got lots to learn and lots to do, and this is a program that I am wholeheartedly for.”

CCPS Superintendent Jeff Lawson said that when he was a high school principal in Delaware, he attributed his success to his passion for the job, his dedication to the hustle, and his interactions with students, families and community members. Lawson said he sees those same characteristics in CCST Principal James Miró.

“Mr. Miró, if you’ve ever seen him in action, loves the job,” Lawson said. “If you come into this business and you love it, you’ve got a lot in the way toward success.”

With the addition of the diesel technician program, CCST offers career and technology training in over 20 different areas of education.

Miró said students will be able to not only earn a passing job, but an enduring career in their field of choice.

“We have 22 students who are venturing down this path for the first time,” he said. “You have an opportunity to enter the workforce with a highly marketable skill set, one that will lead to a career — not just a job, but a career.”

Councilman Al Miller said that students will have career options in addition to becoming a diesel mechanic.

“Once you get the talent and you get the skills, you don’t just have to be a mechanic,” he said. “You can still be a parts guy, you can be a salesman. It just opens up a whole world of opportunities.”

Danielle Hornberger, appearing on behalf of her husband, Del. Kevin Hornberger, presented a proclamation from Cecil County’s state delegation in Annapolis, congratulating CCST and recognizing the official ribbon cutting for the diesel program.

“Thank goodness we have folks like you who are excited to learn,” she said. “This is certainly an important first step towards high-tech apprenticeship programs.”

Mike Kalinsky presented a similar proclamation on behalf of State Sen. Jason Gallion. Kalinsky also said he would be calling on the diesel students for some help with a project soon.

“On another note, I’ve got an old Kubota,” he said. “It’s on my farm right now. It had a knock and I pulled it apart and I need help.”

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