Students will be paid to work for Tesla during the 14-week course
CEO Elon Musk has large hiring plans for Tesla Inc.’s rising factory in Travis County, where the company will produce its Cybertruck model.
As Tesla Inc. anticipates opening its factory in Travis County later this year, the electric vehicle manufacturer is preparing to launch a student training program with Austin Community College District.
The 14-week course, called Tesla START Manufacturing at ACC, will have students working in paid positions at Tesla’s manufacturing facility while participating in hands-on learning in specialized labs at ACC’s Riverside Campus, according to the college’s website. Participants will be eligible for full-time jobs once they complete the program.
CEO Elon Musk has said the company will need 10,000 people at Tesla’s rising factory in Travis County by the end of next year. That’s left many to wonder how the metro will supply the talent pool without losing too many jobs to people outside the area or starving smaller local manufacturing companies out of their existing workforces. Central Texas’ manufacturing talent pool has been strained as companies rush to the metro and the desire among young people narrows to pursue trades.
Tesla officials have said the company plans to partner with local colleges since it picked Austin last year, though these are the first concrete details to be shared. Repeated attempts to reach Tesla officials about progress in their hiring efforts so far have been unsuccessful.
The first round of the local program will begin in August, with new cohorts beginning each month, according to a June 15 announcement. Students will design, build and maintain cutting-edge machines, according to the announcement. An ACC spokesperson said cohorts will start small due to Covid-19 restrictions, beginning with 6-12 students. The school plans to start new cohorts every 4 to 6 weeks.
It’s likely that the car manufacturer’s workforce will be made of both local talent and those who move to Central Texas for the opportunity. The same thing happened when Tesla entered the Reno area in 2014. In Nevada, Tesla also partnered with Truckee Meadows Community College to create an apprenticeship program under a similar format. Officials previously told Austin Business Journal that 150 students were expected for the program last fall but the college recorded about 500 apprentices at one point for Tesla and Panasonic, which also operates out of the Nevada giga factory.
“It is critical we train our existing workforce to meet the manufacturing needs of Central Texas,” Ed Latson, executive director of Austin Regional Manufacturers Association, said in a statement. “With the potential for thousands of new jobs at Tesla alone, this partnership will be crucial to making sure the right training is provided for the right jobs. This will be another pathway at ACC for people to find a sustainable and meaningful career in manufacturing.”
Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) will be producing its Model 3s, Model Y SUVs, Cyber trucks and Semi tractor-trailers in Central Texas and will also host a battery cell manufacturing unit. By press time, about 250 positions were posted on the company’s website for the giga factory, with a wide array of engineering and managerial roles. The company is expected to offer employees an average annual salary of about $47,000, health insurance, paid leave and equity in the company.
ACC is offering financial support to cover up to 100% of tuition costs, according to its website. The program requires students to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Students also need to have mechanical and technical abilities, plus problem-solving skills and the ability to work under pressure.
“When business and education come together, we build connections that make college affordable and link students directly with employers so they can go straight into a promising career,” Dr. Richard Rhodes, chancellor of ACC, said in a statement. “ACC is excited to work with Tesla to develop cutting-edge training programs that prepare students for one of the region’s fastest-growing industries. Tesla is at the forefront of that innovation, and now ACC students will be on the front lines.”
The program joins other efforts at ACC to supply the area with needed manufacturing workforce, including an eight-week course launched last year with ARMA. Tesla officials have also said the company is planning partnerships with Huston-Tillotson University, the University of Texas and the Del Valle Independent School District.
Manufacturing is a $12.3 billion industry in Central Texas, according to the announcement. As of April, the Austin metro had 64,500 people employed in manufacturing, up 6.3% from the year prior, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Prior to that, manufacturing employment grew 27% from 2009 to 2019, according to Texas Workforce Commission data.
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