As auto companies ramp up plans for more electric vehicles (EVs), the schools training the technicians who will work on these vehicles are shifting gears to prepare them for a world of electrification.
Preparing a new cohort of technicians for an industry that will be dominated by EVs, however, won’t be as simple as flipping a switch.
Student technicians and apprentices will still need to know the fundamentals of auto repair and how to work on internal-combustion engines. Moreover, “electrification” at some manufacturers will mean more hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles in the near term instead of a slew of battery EVs.
In addition, the number of EVs coming into dealerships for service will be relatively small for at least the next few years, so most of that work will be done by seasoned master technicians.
The tech of the future, though, will need a solid foundation in electricity and electronics, be as comfortable working with both a laptop and a wrench and be able to follow complex diagnostic charts to find and fix problems in EVs, according to those involved in training.
“They’re going to have to be really strong in electrical hard-wired systems but also in electronics, understanding module communication, wireless communication, Bluetooth and training in full-electric [vehicles],” Justin Morgan, chairman of the automotive tech program at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.
Sinclair, which offers manufacturer-sponsored technician training programs with General Motors Co., American Honda Co., Fiat-Chrysler’s Mopar program, and Tesla Inc., plans to adjust its course offerings in the next few years to keep up with the trend to electrification. Students typically split time between the classroom and working at a dealership in these programs.
“We have two electrical classes right now, and I would say we could potentially have a Level III class that talks about more advanced electrical and electronics, such as radar systems or electric-drive units or motors,” Mr. Morgan said.
Sinclair has offered a hybrid-electric vehicle class for more than 10 years, and Mr. Morgan said he expects the college will reduce the time devoted to hybrids so it can add new material to EVs. He envisions the EV component focusing on safety with high-voltage systems and diagnosis and servicing of batteries and electric-drive units.
The manufacturer-sponsored programs at colleges are structured so what students learn in class matches the duties they perform at dealerships. Mr. Morgan said work on advanced technology, hybrids, and EVs in dealer service departments is usually reserved for master technicians, but students need opportunities, too.
“I think they need to start having students exposed in programs like ours to be prepared to service those vehicles four or five years from now,” he says.