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ADAPT: The Endless Opportunities of EV Education

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Many future automotive technicians begin their journey in the classroom. This type of setting can oftentimes be the first interaction that an individual has with industry tools and procedures. Needless to say, the experience that a student has with a school can be paramount in establishing the trajectory of their automotive career.

Northeast State Community College in Blountville, Tennessee, creates educational environments that prepare individuals for the automotive industry while also taking into account the various technologies and innovations at play.

Recently, the school was awarded a $349,340 grant from the National Science Foundation to integrate electric vehicle technology into its existing automotive programming.

The school was also invited to be a part of the National Electric Vehicle Consortium, which is made up of a network of industry and academic experts.

“The goal of the National Electric Vehicle Consortium is to bring people together in the EV world focusing on standardizing knowledge across fields,” explains Donna Farrell, dean of technologies at Northeast. “Workforce projections estimate more than 250,000 jobs in the EV sector by 2030.”

With this backbone of support in place, the school is set up for success when it comes to implementing an EV focus through the grant. Existing automotive programs at the school include automotive service, a motor sports training program, auto body technology, and certificates in auto body service and automotive service.

Northeast is working on a curriculum that effectively integrates EV technology into its pre-existing programs, but Farrell wants the program to go beyond that as well.

Farrell explains that the National Science Foundation has a section called the Advanced Technological Education Program, which focuses on advanced technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.

“We’re are partnering with local, regional, and national partners in this project”, Farrell says.

There are many exciting components at play through this grant, which Farrell believes will only boost the reputation that Northeast already has.

“We consider ourselves leaders in technology education,” Farrell says.

Ernie Morelock, head of the Automotive Motor Sports Department, says including EV education goes further than just showing how to work on a car. It’s also about understanding potential dangers.

“The safety issue, when you’re around such high voltage, is very important,” Morelock explains. “We’ll need to stress how important it is that these inter-level techs, and the workforce understand that they cannot conduct themselves around these EVs the way they did previously with regular ICE vehicles.”

Morelock explains that this grant will help the school gain access to manufacturer-level trainers that will specifically help with EV education, which Morelock says is harder to come by than it may seem.

“We feel that this grant is going to help us on the top end to secure equipment,” Morelock says. “There are a lot of companies out there that are manufacturing training equipment for automotive programs … but there are very few that have started on their EV and HEV side.”

The ways in which the grant will be able to benefit the students are plentiful, and Morelock is excited to see where the curriculum could take students once fully developed.

“Whether it’s still ICE or whether it’s a fully electric motor, we want our students to have that competitive edge,” Morelock says.

One area that Morelock is interested in revolves around converting ICEs to EVs, and he believes his proposed idea on the topic may have helped the school get the grant in the first place.

“If you have a workforce out there that’s trained to convert the internal combustion engine to a fully electric system and tie in the existing electronic systems with that, I think that would work,” Morelock says.

Morelock says that this approach could help technicians effectively train for a greater EV presence, and would also benefit the consumers who purchase electric vehicles.

“We want to stay a little ahead of the curve when it comes to what type of training our students will need,” Morelock says. “If it happens tomorrow, if they mandate [EVs] tomorrow, we’d have to scuttle a little bit but I think we could be ready.”


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