SOUTH PORTLAND — Due to the demand of hybrid and electric cars, more trained automotive technicians specializing in electric vehicle repair are needed. Many automotive technicians have had to turn away several customers and tell them to take their electric or hybrid car to a dealer.

Southern Maine Community College has launched the first electric car program in Maine. The class offers vehicle repair technicians the ability to diagnose and service electric and hybrid cars. The first class was currently being offered in December and additional classes will be scheduled to open in 2022.

“The program was created at the request of VIP  to train their technicians to work on hybrid and electric vehicles and to prepare for the ASE L3 test,” said Ruth Morrison, Automotive Technology Department chair. “The governor has recently provided support for community colleges to train workers in green jobs, so we got funding for equipment and train-the-trainer courses and now we can run this new curriculum.  We are offering this through our Workforce Development Department to professional technicians.”

The program is designed for technicians that currently work in auto repair shops, auto dealers and other vehicle related businesses. Students first complete 32 hours of online instruction training prior to arriving on campus. Once the online training is completed, students take a hands-on weeklong course in Southern Maine Community College’s Automotive Technology Center. The program involves general education, automotive lecture and laboratory instruction. Graduates of the program have several opportunities in the field including positions in dealerships, independent stores, and several others.

It’s a hybrid course that starts with online training and then there is a hands-on portion,” Morrison said. “The subjects we cover are: high voltage safety and PPE and high voltage vehicle safety systems, battery pack systems testing, analysis, and repair, electric machine (motors and generators) testing, power inverter testing, DC-DC converter testing, high voltage AC compressor testing, regenerative braking system, hybrid and electric vehicle maintenance services and vehicle charging systems,” said Morrison.

Previously, people wanting to participate in this type of program had to travel to different locations to get the type of hands-on training. Southern Maine Community College has brought in specialist from the Las Vegas-based company Future Tech to teach the first hybrid and electric car class. Morrison will be taking over the class.

I was first approached by VIP in the summer of 2019,” Morrison said. “The course was supposed to run in August 2020.  The pandemic totally messed up the timetable.  But we were able to start getting the equipment this fall and then do the online and hands on training in summer and fall 2021. We had 10 technicians from VIP plus my partner and me in the class this fall. We did the online training and then had the hands-on course in December.  We will offer this again at the end of spring and in the summer.  Right now I am busy teaching our usual spring semester courses.” 

The program is currently being run through SMCC’s Workforce Training which is aimed at local companies and working individuals. The program offers numerous learning opportunities including computers, welding, construction, medical assisting, and manufacturing.

“Right now we are offering this through Workforce Development, so we are not offering a degree or college certificate,” Morrison said. “I plan on proposing that this be a certificate program for matriculated students, but that will be in the future after we have worked with the college’s Curriculum Committee and gotten approval from the Maine Community College System.”

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