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Education

Consortium secures grant to train electric vehicle workforce

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 Trident Technical College took the lead on a grant to form a consortium that its members hope will create the next generation of innovation and talent for the electric vehicle industry.
The consortium, called Collaborative Research: REVVED, for Revolutionizing Electric Vehicle Education, will receive $2.83 million from the National Science Foundation to fund the project.
A growing need to develop a workforce that can build and service electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as develop the cybersecurity to protect them, is the driving force behind the effort, according to a news release. 
Even if they’re not making electrified vehicles in South Carolina, all of the automakers with plants in the state are manufacturing electric somewhere or conducting R&D to that end. BMW Manufacturing in Greer has a production line for batteries on site. Spartanburg County’s next automaker, Oshkosh Defense, will make a mix of gas and electric vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service; a company called Arrival, based in Charlotte, is building an electric vehicle plant in York County; and the electric city buses made by Proterra are partially assembled in Greenville.
The consortium will conduct evidence-based research studies to investigate integration of virtual and augmented reality systems to support electric vehicle manufacturing and education, the news release said. The digital learning tools will be based on industry needs and be available at EducateWorkforce.com.
Trident Technical College is working in partnership with Greenville Technical College, Spartanburg Community College and Clemson University as part of the consortium. Several workforce development centers and industry partners are also involved.
One of the main goals is to strengthen learning and retention among students from rural areas, veterans and students who are from groups underrepresented in the workforce. 
Digital learning systems are especially attractive for nontraditional students, researchers said.
Industry partners are BMW, Michelin, Bosch, Daimler, Proterra and Volvo.
National Science Foundation consortia members are: Indian River Community College, the National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center, the National Center for Autonomous Technologies, the Center for Advanced Automotive Technology, the Northwest Engineering Vehicle Technology Exchange, the S.C. Technical College System, Upstate SC Alliance and the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Mary Thornley, president of Trident Technical College, said REVVED addresses a critical need in South Carolina and across the country.
“Our country has an unprecedented need — the need for a new generation of talent to respond to international competition for an automotive workforce with up-to-date skill sets required for the manufacturing and servicing of electric and autonomous vehicles,” Thornley said in the release. “We are excited to work with strong partners to create that talent to ensure state and national competitiveness.”
Jim Clements, president of Clemson University, said the grant will provide important support to the automotive workforce.
“We are excited to be part of this collaboration to create the next generation of innovation and talent for the electric vehicle industry,” he said. 
“Clemson has a rich history of working with technical colleges and industry. It’s in our DNA. These efforts make a difference in achieving high-quality outcomes for 21st-century challenges and opportunities.”
Tim Hardee, president of the S.C. Technical College System, said he supports the collaboration.
“This is a great example of how Clemson University, an R1 research institution, partners with technical colleges and industry to support workforce preparedness for the betterment of all South Carolina,” he said in the release.
Clemson’s relationship with technical colleges includes Greenville Tech’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation, located on the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.
Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, said the grant provides new opportunities to ensure the future workforce is equipped with relevant skills as the industry transitions from internal-combustion engine to electric vehicles.
“The Greenville Technical College team comes to this project with extensive experience in curriculum design, implementation of online courses and recruitment of underserved and underrepresented students,” Miller said in the release. 
“The consortium faculty team includes  Robert Elliott, dean of manufacturing and maintenance, and Walter Varella, coordinator of the automotive technology program at Trident Technical College.

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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