The Automotive Strategic Workforce Initiative at Weber State University is a new program designed to prepare automotive and engineering students to operate on electric and hybrid vehicles in the workforce.
The program was officially launched on Sept. 17, and although it was developed by WSU, the goal for the program is to eventually reach students all across Utah, including students attending other universities, high school students, people already employed in the industry and even non-student and non-working civilians.
WSU officials are currently working to obtain more funding so they may continue to expand the program.
“The effort is to be able to get electric vehicles, components and safety tools to as many different institutions in Utah as we can,” Scott Hadzik, the chair of WSU’s Department of Automotive Technology, said. “We want students to be exposed to this type of technology early on, because these vehicles are becoming more and more prevalent in the industry.”
The initiative involves a newly-developed curriculum and training on electric and hybrid vehicles for students. It teaches proper safety measures to take when operating on an electric vehicle, how the inner systems work and how to accurately diagnose and service an electric car.
“It’s important to teach students how to safely and effectively operate on these vehicles,” John Kelly, an automotive technology professor who specializes in hybrid and electric vehicles, said. “They have different systems and elements that the workforce needs to understand since they are becoming so common.”
Environmental issues combined with increasingly efficient technology have caused significant changes to the automotive industry. Because it is currently undergoing a rapid transition from gas-powered vehicles to electric, this initiative is crucial to the survival of the industry. As more and more companies manufacture electric cars, people with the proper training to service these types of cars come in higher and higher demand.
According to Hadzik, the number of electric vehicles on the road has nearly doubled in the last few years alone.
“Those vehicles will need service, and if an automotive shop cannot provide that, they are going to lose a lot of business,” Hadzik said.
Students who have received electric vehicle training as is offered through this program will be invaluable to the industry. This training will give students a significant edge in their field and will be much more likely to be hired.
“Electric vehicles are the future of this industry,” Gavin Young, an automotive student and Weber State, said. “Everything is heading in that direction currently, so adding that skill set would be really helpful in my career as an auto-mechanic.”