HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) Huntersville campus has a program that is changing lives. Thirteen students have been chosen for Tesla's automotive technician program. It started back in January. It's a 12 week program that gives students more than 500 hours of learning about the luxury electric car from front to back. It's 40 percent classwork and 60 percent hands-on training. Students have to learn how to take the car apart and put it back together before they can graduate.
"They're tricky to work with. Not only do you have the mechanic side of it, but you also have the electrical side and the communications side. You have to know all the fields to understand the car completely," CPCC student Cody McKinney said.
CPCC is the first community college in the country with this program. School leaders say Tesla was so impressed with a graduate of CPCC, who now works for the company that they wanted to partner with the college.
"It speaks volumes. We are so excited. We know we are producing good graduates and they are competent and they are ready for the workforce," CPCC Merancas Huntersville Campus Dean Tamara Williams said.
CPCC says 37 people applied for the program but only 13 were accepted. Tesla knows it needs more technicians to work on its cars. So far about 300,000 of them have been sold.
"As they get more and more affordable options for the electrical vehicles, you are going to have more and more customers buying them," instructor Chad Blythe said.
Students will graduate Friday from the program and some already have jobs. The average pay for a Tesla automotive technician is about $66,000 a year. One student got a job in Indiana and another in Ohio. The dean wished those tech jobs could stay in the area, but says despite the students leaving North Carolina, CPCC has fulfilled its mission.
"For us success is graduating and being employed. We are about employment that they can sustain a livable wage," Williams said.
Tesla opened another program at a community college in Los Angeles. CPCC says two more automotive technician programs will start this summer.