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Weber State expands efforts to train electrical vehicle mechanics

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 18, 2021
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From left, Kaleb Stephens, Gavin Myers and Timothy Schaefermeyer inspect some of the technology and machinery at Weber State University's Department of Automotive Technology in Layton. Officials on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, announced plans to bolster the department's program focused on electric vehicles.
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Scott Hadzik, chair of Weber State's Department of Automotive Technology, addresses a crowd of Weber State professors, students and community members who gathered for the launch of the Automotive Strategic Workforce Initiative at the university’s Davis Campus in Layton on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.
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Weber State University instructor Blair Newbold, right, shows students from Roy High School around the electric vehicle garage during the launch of the Automotive Strategic Workforce Initiative at the university's Davis Campus in Layton on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. The program is designed to prepare students to work on electric vehicles.

LAYTON — As the world moves more and more to electric vehicles, more and more technicians with the specialized know-how to service them will be needed.

As is, they’re in short supply, but a new initiative spearheaded by Weber State University‘s Department of Automotive Technology aims to create a pool of workers skilled in the sector, able to fill the gap. It underscores yet another facet of expected green jobs growth and opportunity for future job seekers.

“There’s just a shortage of electric technicians,” said Jennifer Vesper, outreach coordinator for the Department of Automotive Technology. “This is not a dead-end career. This is a career they can go forward in.”

Weber State received around $300,000 in grant funds from the state to aid with the initiative, called the Automotive Strategic Workforce Initiative, said Scott Hadzik, chair of the Department of Automotive Technology. The money will be used to acquire new electric cars to aid in the training of students and to bolster automotive tech offerings at the high school level.

Hadzik foresees increased outreach to students in the Ogden, Weber and Davis school districts, which feed into the Weber State system and other area tech colleges. Eventually, he foresees efforts, now focused in Northern Utah, expanding further south.

“Every auto manufacturer is offering electric vehicles now,” said John Kelly, a professor of automotive technology in the Weber State program. “It’s just going to explode, the need for this type of training.”

Mechanics accustomed to fixing gas-powered vehicles may be more reluctant to shift to electric vehicles, Hadzik said. “Up and coming” mechanics, he went on, “will be the ones to embrace” the specialized training needed.

Nearly 100 new electric vehicle models are to debut in the United States by the end of 2024, Weber State said in a press release. President Joe Biden, moreover, has called for electric vehicle sales to account for half of all new auto sales by 2030.

Partners in the initiative — focus of a ceremonial kick-off on Friday at the Department of Automotive Technology campus in Layton — also include Ogden-Weber Technical College, Davis Technical College, Salt Lake Community College and Bridgerland Technical College in Logan. Weber State officials were on hand at Friday’s ceremony as well as area elected leaders and representatives from several area car dealers, where more and more electric car technicians will be needed.

“The electric side is a huge, huge thing,” said Scott Wadman, service manager at Young Kia in Layton, one of several dealerships represented.

Electric motors are considerably different from gas-powered engines. The specialized training in the Weber State program is focused on teaching how electric motors run, diagnosing and addressing problems and safety.

Among those at Friday’s ceremony were students from area high schools, who toured the Department of Automotive Technology facilities. The facilities feature numerous electric and hybrid vehicles and the tools and equipment needed to service them.

Kaleb Stephens, a sophomore at the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, a Weber State high school program, was there.

“Just getting to see this stuff, it’s totally worth it,” he said. “Seeing the new technology is incredible.”

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