MiraCosta College in Oceanside, CA, has received a $400,000 federal stimulus grant to assist in developing their new hybrid vehicle training program. The course is only open to trained technicians who are able to pass a skills test administered by the college.
Below is the article as it appeared in the North County Times website.
New class at MiraCosta creates electric opportunity
College set to offer new hybrid technician course
Posted: March 1, 2010 7:04 pm
By PAUL SISSON
Today, the back wall of the Automotive Technology garage at MiraCosta College in Oceanside is lined with gas-powered engines. Soon those old internal-combustion bangers will get a quiet new electric companion.
The community college, with the help of a $400,000 federal stimulus grant, has ordered an electric motor, an array of insulated tools and special safety gloves to prepare for its new hybrid vehicle technician program.
"We will also be buying two hybrid vehicles, a Toyota Prius and a hybrid Honda Accord," added program coordinator Joseph King.
MiraCosta is the only community college in San Diego County to offer a course focused on the ins and outs of maintaining and repairing hybrid passenger vehicles like the Prius, the best-selling gas-electric vehicle in America.
After several months of searching, MiraCosta hired Bill Rice of Rancho Santa Margarita as its first hybrid technology instructor. Rice now works as a technician for Park Place Lexus of Mission Viejo.
Lynda Lee, dean of community services and business development at MiraCosta, said it was difficult to find an applicant who had both experience and training in hybrids and also teaching experience.
"There just aren’t that many people out there who have the skill set we were looking for," Lee said.
Rice said he has been working on hybrids for Toyota for about three years and has 16 years of experience as an automotive technician. He has worked with MiraCosta to develop a curriculum from scratch, using his knowledge of hybrids to guide him.
He said the most important part of a hybrid training program is teaching students to properly handle the high-energy circuits in a hybrid. Doing so requires plastic-coated certified tools and gloves made of a special material that only lasts for six months.
"This is a 300-volt system which is a lot different than the 12-volt system that mechanics are used to working with," Rice said. "A big part of it is teaching them the importance of knowing if that electricity is there or it’s not."
He said technicians will learn the basics of changing batteries and doing other change-outs during a five-week, 50-hour course held two days a week, on Fridays and Saturdays.
The course is open only to trained mechanics who can pass a skills test administered by the college. Because the course is paid for with a grant from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, priority is given to automotive workers who have been laid off or are "under employed," meaning they work less than full time.
Interested students must apply through any career center operated by the San Diego Workforce Partnership which is administering the grant. There are six career centers in San Diego, including two in North County, one in Oceanside and one in Escondido.
With the automotive world turning from gasoline to electricity, Rice said it is exciting to be part of the transition.
"I feel this is a career foundation of where the industry is going now, so it is exciting," he said.
Dean Lee said those who complete the 50-hour course will receive a certificate of completion which can help them get a job at a hybrid dealership or begin repairing hybrid vehicles in third-party repair shops. She said that if the program is successful, MiraCosta plains to add credit classes to its automotive technology curriculum.
"We’re building capacity for the college," she said.
The first class starts April 10 and will have fewer than 20 students. But MiraCosta’s grant requires the college to train at least 120 students by mid 2011, so there will be subsequent sessions each following semester.
The program will hold an orientation at the college on Mar. 19 at 6 p.m. Those interested in attending should call King at (760) 795-6876. Friday sessions are to run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To read this article on the North County Times website, visit http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/oceanside/article_9a68bad7-494e-52e3-8d2a-7a464e944087.html.