NEVTEX - Tesla START - Rio Hondo College - Whittier California
I'm fortunate to have been invited to join as an advisor to the Northwest Engineering and Vehicle Technology Exchange (NEVTEX) and since we've just completed our first annual meeting at Rio Hondo College in Whittier California on Saturday, May 19, 2018, and I'm here to share. The event was hosted by John Frala an instructor at Rio Hondo. The National Science Foundation awarded grant 1700708 to NEVTEX during the summer of 2017. The participants in this group are from various segments of the industry including public transportation, fleets, SAE, service technicians, and others and I can say that it was an absolute honor to be among this group.
Here is the abstract describing the purpose of the NEVTEX Grant:
The West Coast region of the United States has demonstrated significant business development and political commitment to the emerging electric drive industry, which includes electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EV/HEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Worldwide, the market is growing steadily, with Japan leading the way and the United States coming in second. Oregon, Washington and California report nearly one-third of all EV/HEV ownership in the United States. There is wide recognition that current automotive training programs for students and technicians need to be dramatically redesigned to guarantee mastery of these emerging, advanced vehicle systems. The investigative team of this ATE project will address this need by working with selected automotive industry and community college partners to create a standardized approach for training and certifying electric drive technicians. Once completed, the proposed training standards will serve to spearhead a process with the long-term goal of instituting a licensing process for these highly skilled workers who are working with high voltage and high-pressure gaseous fuels. The project team will develop and implement outreach activities aimed at increasing the enrollment of underrepresented groups, including women, Latinos, and Native Americans, in automotive technology programs and career pathways at community colleges. Emphasis will be placed on disseminating and sharing all products and outcomes at national meetings and through a website that will be developed to highlight this project.
The project will identify training categories for electric drive vehicle maintenance and safety. A template will be created for each training category that defines the associated training activities. The overall goal being to develop standardized training for electric drive technicians. Simultaneously, the investigative team will work with content area and industry experts to develop a method to validate skills acquisition. Digital badges will be considered as one way to credential learner outcomes. The training standards and credentialing system will be vetted by industry and educator team members and upon approval, the standards and credentialing system will be tested at 10 businesses and 20 community colleges. Outcomes and training materials will be shared regionally and nationally with appropriate organizations and stakeholders. Once a framework for training and credentialing has been validated by these organizations, the investigative team will meet with governmental agencies in the Western States to discuss the institutionalizing of licensing procedures for electric drive technicians. In the United States, there is currently no standardized credential or licensure requirement for technicians who work with high voltage systems and high-pressure gaseous fuels. As a point of comparison, technicians who work with commercial or residential high voltage or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems must be licensed by each State. The same must also be done for EV/HEV technician who work with high voltage systems and high-pressure gaseous fuels.
John Frala also provided us with a tour of his facility and was proud to show off his recent achievement as that was to secure the Tesla START (Student Automotive Technician Program) at Rio Hondo college. This is one of two programs currently being offered through community colleges in the US.
I was impressed with the mount of alternative energy vehicle programs being taught at Rio Hondo and since they're not too far from where I reside, I plan on visiting again real soon. Here are a few images I took while we were on a short tour of the facility.
If you have any questions about any of this please let me know.
Ps, the last image with the EV shepherd's hook is of James Avery (who's retired but still works part time at Stingray Chevrolet in Tampa Bay, FL) attempted to be fully pulled into retirement by his daughter who accompanied him at the event. 😉
Scott, excellent post! As a HEV/EV specialist myself I'll echo the need for more quality training and licensure for high voltage systems. Do you know of any similar group on the east coast/northeast? The Eaton tool pictured: is that for testing a EV charger after installation?
Thanks for the feedback. As for any groups up in the NE, I'm not aware of any but you might want to reach out to this group and see if they can provide any guidance. There's contact info for Ken Mays in the grant link I provided in my original message.
On the Eaton tool, yes this is a J1772 L1/L2 test box used for troubleshooting chargers. The infrastructure is part of the equation and service technicians are going to need to know how to validate these chargers and inform their customers to inspect the charge port before trying to plug it into their vehicles in order to avoid potential damage. Check out this public L2 charger, after discovering that it would not charge my vehicle I attempted to tie up the cable so no-one else would use it. I came back about an hour or so later to find it plugged into a BMW and not charging...
I wouldn't plug that thing into my Leaf! I'm going to start looking more closely at the public charger connections
Mr Scott, So this is a question from up in the north, (at least in comparison to you). The licence and standardization, will these requirements become standardized globally? wondering what it will look like for Canadian technicians? And how far out do you see an enforced law requiring proper license to work on those systems? I am not asking to push back on it but rather embrace it and try to get on the early bird training band.
We have nearly zero standards here and it’s troubling. In some countries you must be a licensed electrician if the voltage potential is >50v (Netherlands). In Australia, you must have a license to work on a vehicle and a separate electricians license if you work on electrical systems. In my opinion, I believe that we (industry) should step up and take control before we have an event that draws in the Feds where they discover that we allow anyone to pretty much do anything on a vehicle.
Without any standards and or requirements, we’ll likely end up in a position where the technician has very little respect, low wages, poor working conditions, and on top of all that, has to provide their own tools. If that’s what we end up with we’ll have a very hard time attracting new talent into the industry, just think how that might look 👀!
There are other groups out there like NASTF working on similar efforts like The Road to Great Technicians.
Sounds good, Now you will probably have to double or even triple the pay in order to get enough new blood into the repair portion of an industry that appears to be quickly going away.
Manufactures have cut pay so low that is makes no sense for anyone to get involved with the repair end of automobiles.
If wages go back up to where they should be who exactly will be able to afford to have today's 2018 modern cars fixed once off warranty? Sure don't think the average income person can. The elite usually are on a lease program and dump their cars once off warranty, so your not fixing their cars.
I foresee these subscription cars catching on as well as the lease with full maintenance and all repairs included.
Unless these manufactures start producing some cars that people can afford to fix things are gonna dry up quick. Which is probably good for the better techs pay but....
Too many of these modern car systems are integrated. Example - radio goes out, well that was the control head for you HVAC etc
No choice to fix it. But the radio costs 3K
Shops do not seem to want to pay qualified techs today, you really think once they have more certs under their belt they are gonna be paid more? Really?
Reason I bring up pay is simply cause good techs are bailing out of this industry at an alarming rate and the new blood "generally" can't/won't fix anything that isn't found on Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc.
If your being paid .3 for a diag your gonna toss parts. Manufactures dug this grave lets see them fix it.
"Shops do not seem to want to pay qualified techs today, you really think once they have more certs under their belt they are gonna be paid more? Really?"
What if the cert was required in order to perform the service? What if the cert required proof of proficiency? What if the shop had minimums it had to meet? In CA all you need is a check for $200 and you get an ARD (Auto Repair Dealer License) and you're up and running. Yeah I get all of this and the future is not going to be painless. How many repairs (parts replacements) occur everyday that the consumer bought and paid for that was unneeded?
You visit a lot of shops and see what's out there, do you think that the garage-keeper liability companies really know what's going on in shops today?
"If your being paid .3 for a diag your gonna toss parts. Manufactures dug this grave lets see them fix it."
It's definitely an economics challenge, one that isn't sustainable. What do they call it when you keep doing the same over and over again expecting different results?
Change is going to happen and I'm not going to run away from it... Although, I have thought about diversifying and converting part of my shop into a microbrewery at times. ;)
Send me a sample, I should probably buy in :)
But seriously, what about the issues taised?
I would get a cert if it was required. I do not think it will help the industry. Your adding one more thing these under paid tech's have to get on top of all their tools, education, etc to make a low wage.
Fix the income issue, get new blood looking at this industry as a good career, once there are qualified tech's filling these shops again. Then require them to get a cert. Putting another hurtle in place as this point in time only makes matters worse.
This is a much bigger project than just creating a new cert level. This is about creating a real and viable career, one that is rewarding and requires industry-established minimums. You cannot have one without the other. OE's already know (at least some do) that their current programs are not sustainable. But this isn't just about the OE's as in the US, and elsewhere, the majority of the fleet is serviced outside of their systems. But as you mentioned earlier, we may get to a point where no-one owns a vehicle anymore. What does that model look like? Not very good, in my opinion.
What's going to happen when we have a sophisticated vehicle system that has a maintenance induced failure that causes an incident that gets the attention of regulators? What will they find as they peel back the layers? Do we need an industry or government driven solution?
We have many deficiencies in our current programs and you named one of them, tools, how stuffed-up is that requirement?
This isn't going to be fixed overnight and one needs to look at the bigger picture if they want to bring forth potential solutions. The vehicle technology has been raising the bar on required competencies for years now and we've (the industry as a whole) done little-to-nothing to keep up. Sure, there are companies out there claiming that all one needs to do is connect to the port and the software they created "finger-snap"(1) tells them what to do to the car. That's where one segment of the solution-side of the industry thinks where we're going but I don't buy it. The vehicle issues surfacing on the vehicle through its life are going to be different, requiring a new breed of technician, one that requires respect and along with that, rewarding compensation.
Thanks for listening.
(1) source: YouTube
Sounds like a great event! I am sure a lot of learning took place. I agree with Paul, the certs will mean little, even if required and not just voluntary. I have been waiting since 1972 for all these "changes" to take place. Tech pay and benefits have not kept up, and as the current crop leaves, there is nothing to attract young new talent. Until the shops that race to the bottom fail out of business, most owners will always try to be the price leader. I am still waiting....Always hopeful!
Wow wish I could have attended that!! Frala is the 'nutty professor' type. Love that guy! He was one of my automotive instructors at Rio Honda many moons ago!! Definitely brilliant.
Hi Scott. It was good catching up with you on the weekend.
It has finally come to pass that standards do need to be developed for technicians working on vehicles where high voltages, gaseous fuels and similar risk-posing hazards exist. Our institute recently received a grant with similar goals in mind. I wasn't directly involved, so am not aware of all of the details, but there were and are grant monies available for development of structured training and standards implementation.
There are many challenges no matter what level of training a technician has or does not have in areas such as electrification. I now have somewhere around 40 hybrid/EV courses logged, comprising a healthy mix of hands-on and online content, mostly GM because of my background and with a dose of training from the key players in the independent sector. However, if I do not choose to follow best practices during a diagnosis or repair, things could easily go amiss.
The old adage, "You can lead a horse to water......" comes to mind and there will be a need for "buy in" to the culture of safety and training by technicians and management alike. The latter must ensure that work assignments are completed by trained technicians in a safe and appropriate work area. That sounds simple enough, but reality will rear it's "ugly head" and readily identify that much work and improvement is needed in this area to ensure best practices and a safe work environment are and remain as the norm.
The thing about standards, is that there are so many to choose from and that can be an issue. We can train technicians, but policing or even ensuring whether they are adhering to standards can be rather more of a challenge. It may be as simple as a technician being handed a repair order for a hybrid or EV and the PPE being out of date, or hybrid and EV repairs being directed to non-qualified technicians by the shop dispatcher. Best practices and training in the area of proper work assignment can be rather lacking in some facilities. A technician may choose to work without training and best practices, simply because management is ignorant or intentionally circumvents safety because of a lack of knowledge training and responsibility on their own part, about the dangers and liabilities. Most often, this puts the onus on the technician to do the repair or be out of work.
While training and certification might appear to be the ultimate goals, they will be the first step in the right direction. in the workplace, training is sometimes viewed as a "CYA" by management to be able to be reimbursed for manufacturer warranty repairs. Identification of all safety risks, the implementation of proper signage, PPE and appropriate work space, will all be elements that require detailed attention.
"We provided training, so we are in compliance and our butt is covered." is probably a mentality that abounds, rather than a culture of ensuring workplace safety as a priority. So, it goes much deeper than training and standards to the need to demonstrate "due diligence", which is quite different from "training". This will be needed in the case of program development and implementation, management and adherence to best practices by everyone involved at the service level from work distribution through technicians working on the vehicles. One weak link and the chain is broken, with the possibility of devastating results.
It is possible to work on hybrid and EV systems quite safely, but it is dependent on working safely in the proper environment and with appropriate skills and tools.
It was great to chat with you but more importantly, placing an accent and a face to your name was the most important part. I hope to someday very soon come to visit and check out your program, I can "read-between-the-lines" and tell that you run a 1st class operation. Additionally, I'd love to talk with you more about what we have planned for Diagnostic Network and could use your help if you're interested. I'll contact you off-line.
Concerning the points raised above, (IMO) If we treat service events similar to the way an aviation mechanic treats theirs, (mainly because of the why) then I believe we can move the industry in the right direction. Looking at the bigger picture, vehicle electrification shouldn't really be treated as a progression but rather a giant stair-step in which requires an entire support system. Included with, the advanced safety systems found on today's vehicles are just as important.
Finally, as discussed elsewhere in this thread is the most important aspect, economics, as current practices are certainly NOT accretive in supporting today and tomorrow's workforce.
Accent? What accent? LOL. Okay, I do have a "slight" accent and its a "mongrel" Anglo Canadian! You and everyone else wouldn't understand my natural "Brummie" accent.
We probably met in passing back at the 2001 conference in Detroit, but we were all very busy and bouncing around.
You know, my first impression of the images that you posted was that the was more grey or white hair or no hair than dark hair in the shop! Then, I looked in the mirror and, geez, I resemble that remark!
One of the issues with standards, certifications and determining what levels of training skills and expertise is necessary, is that when we were younger technicians, we mostly didn't know what we didn't know, either through ignorance or that it was "someone else's" responsibility.
One of the greatest things that brought many of these grey haired folks together years ago beyond the OEM brand steering committees, was of course iATN. I and many others have been very thankful for the many opportunities that our involvement has offered over many years and how membership allowed me personally to network with many great minds whom I might never have had the chance to be in contact with, while working in isolation.
So, rather than manufacturers working in isolation, we now have many great minds from a much broader spectrum of industry in the independent sector, contributing to "steer the ship" on a course that is fair and equitable to all.
Not to sidetrack the discussion too far, one of the biggest challenges is the one that Paul has already alluded to further up in the discussion. It is a huge and realistic concern that needs to be addressed. We can have all of the standards and certifications in place and that is necessary, but we also must address the root cause of the systemic issue that is currently, a shortage of technicians. By technicians, I really mean those with potential and an aptitude for the work, those that we desire to "carry the torch".
If we cannot attract "new blood" through making the field an attractive career opportunity, all of the efforts devoted to creating and implementing standards will be for naught. So, we need an overhaul of the entire industry that will take more energy than a small steering group can effect.
I find that identifying opportunities for improvement, working towards effecting change in a time line and measuring the results, works well.
So, while the issues that Paul has identified will be paramount to attracting "new blood" into the trade, the event that you attended is one important step towards setting standards and certifications for vehicle electrification, before it becomes a "runaway bus".
This will be just one step of many where training and certification at the applied skills level will need to be more widely implemented. We have already experienced LSID and with vehicle system hacking, unless there is more training and possible certification, accessing the "clean" side of vehicle networks behind secure gateways, will become a major hurdle to overcome.
Scott, as you know, I am always interest in contributing towards the greater good, so that others in this field might be able to benefit from such contributions.
I do vaguely remember the Detroit meeting, it was a very busy time.
Agreed on the on the fact that this has to be a real and rewarding career, otherwise, why bother. Those real and serious issues are on the table for the NEVTEX group and others as well.
Thanks for your continued dedication and support for the industry!
Hey Scot, I wanted to add this picture I took from the Auto Show in New York in regards of the picture of the Toyota with the fuel cell. Thanks for providing information and pictures of your experienc.