electric cars

Tesla established a charging station in Bellmead near Interstate 35 in 2013.

TSTC Waco will become the first school in Texas where students can learn to service Tesla electric cars through a 12-week program.

A local industry recruiter said the distinction could pave the way for placement of a Tesla-branded service center in Greater Waco.

Tesla is the car company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, who already has a fondness for the area. His SpaceX company that specializes in private rocketry operates a testing facility in McGregor that employs nearly 600 people. And Musk, a native of South Africa, has been spotted dining at Donald Citrano’s Coffee Shop Cafe on West McGregor Drive.

An affinity for the area aside, opening a service center locally would seem to make good business sense, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

“Looking at domestic growth, Texas continues to be a leading state in both business and population growth, a trend that is projected to continue for decades to come,” said Collins in an email response.

“So it’s only natural that Tesla would look at Texas for continued new opportunities. Looking at the location of existing Tesla service centers, there is not one located between Dallas and Austin. Given the new partnership with TSTC and the presence of a Tesla Supercharger in Waco, it would make sense for the company to have a service center in our community in the future.”

The Supercharger in Greater Waco has 10 charging stations and is located next to Collin Street Bakery, 701 N. Interstate 35 in Bellmead.

Texas State Technical College in Waco confirmed last week it has been chosen to house a Tesla START program, a 12-week training program designed to provide students with skills needed to work at a Tesla service center.

To date, Tesla said in a news release, 300 students have graduated from Tesla START since it launched in 2018. Tesla, the release states, works with graduates to place them in service centers.

“Instead of training technicians when they start the job, Tesla is arming students with deep knowledge of Tesla products and service, so START graduates are ready to hit the ground running on day one,” said the Tesla release. Tesla now has 110 service centers across North American.

Rudy Cervantez, TSTC’s statewide department chair for Automotive Technology, said graduates of TSTC’s automotive technology, aviation maintenance and electrical programs would seem to be ideal fits for Tesla. But he added Tesla invites anyone in the community to apply, and the company will do the hiring. Training will be housed in Waco at TSTC’s Kultgen Automotive Center. Tesla will provide the instructor, training equipment, vehicles, tools and curriculum for the program, a release said.

Tesla, according to an email response to questions, also manages the recruiting and interviewing process. Students receive compensation “above minimum wage standards per geographic location” during training.

The minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 an hour.

Upon graduation and placement at a service center, “compensation is competitive and varies by region, on top of Tesla benefits and perks.”

Tesla has service centers and galleries for showcasing new products, or provides roadside assistance, in areas around Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio, Tyler, Corpus Christi and Austin.

Cervantez said the first of three 12-week classes begins in March.

“Students will develop technical expertise and earn certifications through a blended approach of in-class theory, hands-on labs and self-paced learning,” said a release. “Students are employed by Tesla as hourly interns.”

Kelly Filgo, TSTC’s executive director of special projects, said working with Tesla illustrates the school’s involvement in specialized training. He added in a statement Tesla recognizes “we are a good pool to pull talent from.”

Tesla has initiated Tesla START partnerships with colleges in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Washington, the company said.

“This partnership with Tesla is another example of the innovative manner in which we place Texans in great paying jobs,” said Mike Reeser, chancellor and CEO of TSTC, whose comments were included in a release.

A contact person for Tesla, speaking on background, provided a fact sheet on the 12-week program. It says students learn skills that are unique to electric vehicles, rather than general automotive skills. Theose skills include learning battery architecture, charging technology and Tesla-specific repair procedures.

“Unlike gasoline cars, Tesla cars require no traditional oil changes, fuel filters, spark plug replacements or emission checks,” the fact sheet stated.

“Outside of the classroom students are assigned several hours of online training modules that are self-paced and guided,” the sheet said.

It goes on to say Tesla START “is available to students from throughout the community, not just those enrolled at the college.”

Tesla in 2019 delivered about 367,500 vehicles to buyers, 50% more than during the previous year, according to an email response.

“As our vehicle fleet continues to grow, our service capacity continues to expand. In Q3, we added 68 vehicles to our mobile service fleet and opened 10 new store and service locations,” the email response continued.

Tesla car prices begin at around $36,000 for its Model 3, with several models in the $80,000 range and a Roadster selling for about $200,000, according to Car and Driver.

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