Weber State University is launching an initiative to help students keep up with a rapidly revving world of electric vehicles (EVs).

A grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (Go Utah) is allowing WSU’s Department of Automotive Technology to offer students from high schools, tech schools and college the training needed to safely work on EVs.

“More manufacturers are talking about commitments to produce only electric vehicles in the near future,” said Scott Hadzik, WSU automotive technology chair. “We’re putting together a partnership with the state and industry in order to make sure technicians are ready to safely work on these vehicles. Safety measures need to be taken, and there is very little training that currently exists.”

Partners in the Automotive Strategic Workforce Initiative include Bridgerland Technical College; Davis Technical College; Ogden-Weber Technical College; Salt Lake Community College; and the Davis, Weber and Ogden school districts.

Weber State’s automotive technology department, housed in the College of Engineering Applied Science & Technology, is leading the partnership. Weber State faculty have been trained by manufacturers and will oversee the education.

Through the partnership, schools are coordinating stackable degree options, so students can move easily from one institution to another and from one degree to another to advance their education. Increased skills are expected to lead to higher wages and validate the need for the strategic workforce investment. Students taking advantage of the stackable credential track will possess the technical skills necessary to be employed by automotive repair facilities throughout the state.

The initiative also will connect high school students to mentors who can explain the technological advancement of automotive manufacturing and answer questions about industry needs, career options and salaries.

“We’re thrilled to see state dollars support an initiative that’s contributing to the current and future economic stability of Utah while actively sustaining and protecting our environment,” said Dan Hemmert, Go Utah’s executive director. “The launch of the Automotive Strategic Workforce Initiative is a powerful demonstration of community partners joining forces with Utah’s education system to solve both workforce and environmental challenges, providing greater access to education and career opportunities for Utah’s students.”

Almost 100 pure-electric EV models are set to debut in the United States by the end of 2024, and Pres. Joe Biden has called for electric vehicles to be half of all new auto sales by 2030. A recent executive order encourages the U.S. auto industry and government to promote legislation and the adoption of electrified vehicles. In order to keep the new EVs safely on the road, industry leaders say it’s imperative for educational institutions to prepare students.

In a letter of support for the initiative, Steve Hoellein, Automotive Aftermarket Advisory Council chair, said the need for qualified technicians has been in place for the past 30 or more years.

“Over the years, vehicles have become more advanced and the shortage of technicians keeps growing,” Hoellein wrote. “We recognize that the great automotive education institutions are in place here. It’s the only pathway to get these great students to enter into this high-demand, high-wage career field.”

The initiative’s launch took place at the Computer & Automotive Engineering Building at WSU Davis in Layton. Event speakers included Hadzik; Utah Rep. Suzanne Harrison; Sen. Chris Wilson; and Tammie Bostick, Utah Clean Cities executive director.

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