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The Endless Opportunities of EV Education

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July 21, 2022Many 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 procedure. 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 that 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 then 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.


“If it was mandated, how many people could give up their internal combustion engine

and purchase an EV right now, with minimum costs at $39,000?” Morelock asks. “We

want to stay a little ahead of the curve when it comes to what type of training our

students will need. If it happens tomorrow, if they mandate [EVs] tomorrow, we’d have to

scuttle a little bit but I think we could be ready.”


In a similar vein, Morelock says that another area he is excited about exploring involves

the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. He is working to have students put an

electric motor in a motor sports car as a hands-on application opportunity.


The National Science Foundation grant will help establish a great foundation for

exploring new areas of technology, which is fitting because Northeast is a school that

already prioritizes tech.


Farrell says that Northeast State is an ATMAE accredited school through the

Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering. This accreditation

recognizes the achievement of goals and the setting of standards as it relates to

technology, management, and applied engineering degrees.


“We want to be a training hub for technology,” Farrell says. “Ernie and the automotive

shop that he has and his program absolutely [do] that.”


The future of EV technology training looks bright for Northeast with so many

opportunities now at its fingertips. Morelock stands behind the work that Northeast has

already done, and with more EV integration it can only go up from here.


“We classify our training as manufacturer-level training,” Morelock says. “We take great

pride in what we have done, and we have the evidence that shows that it really works.”

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