Education/Career Gap Study
 

Section 1: Background Information

Scope and Overview

The purpose of this project is to optimize the career opportunities for alternate energy technicians. We will do this by defining and developing educational criteria, and measuring that against the needs of the industry. The resulting “gap” of knowledge will be defined in this project. Electric Auto Shop’s existing materials and training techniques will be enhanced using the information gathered in this project.

Educational institutions have been increasingly interested in developing educational programs to meet the changing needs of the automotive industry. There is currently little access to information for training technicians qualified to service alternative-fuel vehicles. Electric Auto Shop “EAS” was written to address this need. Other coursework addresses photovoltaic charging and emergency response consideration for the electric drive technology.

Course Definition

The EAS instructional product is module-based and has been developed to be completed in one school semester in 12-16 weeks. The product discusses the history and growth of EVs, their manufacturers, and the reasons for their popularity. Students then learn about EV components, and then assemble those components in a vehicle in their Auto Shop lab/classroom. The result is a legally licensed, working electric vehicle capable of operation on city streets and highways.

Background

During my tenure as Marketing and Sales Director with Solar Electric Engineering, US Electricar, and ZAP Power Systems (1990-2002) I had the opportunity to see the rebirth of the electric vehicle industry. Vehicles were not being produced by major manufacturers, instead they were being built as kits by private citizens. When interest grew a number of small companies were formed, eventually major manufacturers got involved with cars like the Impact, EV1, all the way up to today’s Prius and other hybrids. There was no formal training for becoming an EV technician. Several hobbyists who had built their own EVs by converting gas models had written about their conversions, but these were basically hobbyist accounts in diary form. There was no formal coursework designed to take a group of students from beginner to introduction to final assembly. Parts were available on the market, but few were available in kit form that could be assembled in a classroom without much fabrication and machining. Market prices for gasoline had risen to $4.50/gal and the US had become involved in world conflicts over oil and oil territories. This situation led me to write Electric Auto Shop and present it to the teaching community via http://www.electricautoshop.com .

Purpose

A large number of teachers and students expressed interest, and the company placed three EAS programs into schools. While seeking funding for additional growth EAS applied for Recovery Grant money. The company reached the late stages of evaluation but was turned down due to the inability to provide a sustaining educational model spanning introduction to career placement. I knew that the product was right, it was just not supported by data showing why it would be effective. That led me to identify the need for this project.

The educational Gap study would show where industry had needs and where education failed to provide them. Having this information would help in several ways:

  1. proof of concept for the EAS as a viable product
  2. identification of career paths for students at a younger age
  3. proper training for manufacturers hiring technicians
  4. ability to refine the EAS product to meet specific needs

With these needs as a foundation, I undertook this educational gap project. The purpose of this project will be to formally identify needs at both ends of the spectrum of an EV technician, from introduction to career. Specifically, the high-level performance objectives for this training are for the learners to be able to:

  • show how students learn the basics of EV components and construction
  • identify how students build affinity for careers as EV technicians
  • optimize training methods and materials
  • create a hiring funnel for employers

Significance

The goal of this project is to match teaching with ultimate employer needs to the benefit of student, teacher and employer. Many working adults will need to be retrained for new careers, while career-entry students will seek education that will lead to first jobs. Manufacturers and their service agents will need a supply of properly trained technicians. The existing coursework currently matches a technology that is changing. As fossil fuels become scarcer and more expensive, alternate fuel vehicle drive trains will be needed. Students have not been trained in the development or maintenance of this technology.

The early stage of this change in technology creates an opportunity to address it effectively. We shall summarize needed changes in this EV Educational Gap Study.

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