Two representatives from the Pennsylvania College of Technology traveled to the nation’s capital on July 13 to discuss the institution’s efforts to recruit and prepare students to become technicians in the burgeoning field of hybrid and electric vehicles.
College professionals who shared their comments include Bradley M. Webb, Penn College’s dean of engineering technology, and Christopher J. Holley, assistant professor of automotive technology.
The two were among the panelists who appeared in the Rayburn House Office Building before members of the Congressional Automotive Caucus: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who serves as co-chair, and Mike Carey (R-Ohio).
The bipartisan caucus began nearly 40 years ago to advance policies aimed at growth and job creation in the US auto industry.
Webb explained why students aren’t enrolling in automotive or more generic tech majors, which ultimately leaves a shortfall on the employment side.
“I believe that’s largely because students and parents don’t view these careers as lucrative, sustainable, or high-skilled,” he said. “In reality, these academic programs and jobs require problem-solving and critical thinking.”
Plus, he noted, they can be very profitable, whether at the associate degree level or with additional education and credentials (like the nationally recognized Automotive Service Excellence Certification). ).
To help combat public misconceptions, Penn College has established several programs funded by grants from the National Science Foundation. These include teacher internships in sectors such as manufacturing and aviation, and parent camps as partners.
“All of these activities put people who help students make decisions — parents, teachers, and counselors — in our college labs, where they learned what trained technicians actually do,” Webb explained. “We have had very positive feedback from all the participants in these events.
The dean also stressed the need to encourage students to pursue technical careers, as these jobs are essential to American society. From the earliest days of the pandemic, Penn College graduates got to work: keeping the lights on, welding the pipelines and fixing the vehicles used to move goods and personal protective equipment.
Holley, a full-time faculty member since 2003, spoke about what is needed to properly educate students about hybrid and electric vehicle technology. He pointed out that Penn College expanded its hybrid/EV class from a one-credit course to a three-credit class and added a lab component.
“The one-credit class provides the student with an education that meets industry standards known as an electrically literate,” he said. An EIP designation means the student or technician knows the vehicle is hybrid/electric and has distinct relative knowledge, but is not certified to work on the vehicle’s high voltage components.
“With our new class, the education a student receives will elevate them to a higher level known as a high-voltage technician,” Holley added. An HVT, a lower standard than a high voltage expert, can perform limited high voltage repairs. “While our new class may touch on parts of this standard, HVT certification will occur with manufacturer training once the student graduates and enters the industry.”
He also discussed the protective gear needed for any lab where students work on electric vehicles.
“This PPE includes 1,000 volt gloves (along with inner cotton gloves and outer leather gloves), electrical resistance footwear, hard shield/hard hat, and 50 kilovolt insulation mats,” it said. it detailed. “Additionally, a student in a crash would likely need a high-voltage suit and hood if the EV battery had been damaged in a crash.”
In addition to the accelerated program, Holley said the auto industry may need to update vehicle lifts and reinforce workshops to support the 1,500-pound battery during vehicle removal. In addition, battery chargers must be accessible to students/technicians. Depending on the charger selected (Level 1, 2 or 3), the cost will increase as the specifications increase and the electrical capacity of the entire installation may need to be upgraded.
Finally, he talked about the continuing education that a technician (and teacher) must undergo to obtain and maintain an HVT certification.
“Manufacturers need up to 150 hours of online and in-person training,” he said. “With the shortage of technicians in the field, it is difficult for dealership management to send a technician for training when needed to perform dealership duties.”
Other panel members were Dwayne Myers, co-owner and CEO of Dynamic Automotive, an independent auto repair company with five locations in Frederick County, Maryland, and Mamatha Chamarthi, global head of software business and product management at Stellantis. , which previewed the technology-rich transformation of motor vehicles into self-driving “data centers on wheels.”
Kaptur ended by challenging panelists to design a national workforce development plan among educators, industry leaders and the federal government that helps fill the need for technicians. She said her caucus would welcome such a plan and confidently present it to a broad congressional audience for funding consideration.