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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Tesla Motors speaks to students about evolving job opportunities

J.C. Corliss
Tesla Motors visited Santa Barbara City College’s automotive services and technology department on Wednesday, April 6, in Santa Barbara to discuss the future of alternative fuel transportation industries and the need for trained technicians to support the rapid growth in these fields. Tesla Motors, has been a buzz in the news lately with the offering of its’ new Model 3 that boasts a base sticker price of $35,000, that Tesla says should target the average household.

Three silent, sleek and fully electric Tesla Motor vehicles pulled into City College’s Automotive Quad Wednesday morning to showcase the future of the ever-changing car industry to students in the program.

Representatives from Tesla Motors, Enterprise Rental Cars, and Precision Auto Body & Painting spoke to students in the automotive services and technology department to discuss Tesla vehicles, the increasing demand for trained electronic service technicians and career opportunities in the industry.

“The electric car is the car of the future, we’re not going anywhere,” said Spencer Winkler, service manager of Tesla Motors. “We are more of a tech company, rather than a car company.”

A large crowd of enthusiastic automotive students were able to get first hand experience with the cars. They tested the electric vehicles by blasting the stereo systems, sitting in the luxury seats, fiddling with the large touch screen systems and popping open the hoods where the motor would be, but instead is a large storage compartment in its place.

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“Our biggest thing is getting people accustomed to our cars. We still have a lot of old school guys who are haters,” Winkler said. “I’ll be at the gas station just to grab a bottle of water….not gas. It blows people’s minds.”

Tesla has a different environment than most auto body shops since the cars are fully electric. The shop is clean and mechanics no longer leave the shop with oil and dirt covering their hands, Winkler said. The car industry is shifting, and mechanics are having to learn a new craft with the sophistication of today’s cars.

“We are starving for technicians who can work on these cars,” said Louie Sandoval, general manager at Precision Auto Body and Painting. “I’ve been looking for someone for six months and can’t find one. This is the kind of industry where you never stop learning, it’s always changing.”

Tesla representatives brought two Model S vehicles to display, which can go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. One was a slick grey P90D Ludicrous, and the other was a titanium metallic 90D.

Michael Gallegos, chair of multimedia at City College, also brought his own solid white Model S 70D as a third vehicle to show off.

The representatives emphasized the importance of staying in school and earning a four-year degree for a competitive advantage. Many students said they want to work for a company like Tesla after graduation after hearing how radically different it is from other car companies.

“Everything is so high tech now and basically a computer,” said Pedro Carachure, automotive student at City College. “The higher-end cars have more complicated systems.”

Tesla’s vehicles were deemed the safest cars in America, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Its autopilot functions allow the cars to change lanes, manage speed by themselves, digitally control the brakes, and scan for available parking spaces.  

Representatives highlighted various avenues of the industry, whether working for Tesla itself, the body shop or a technician for Enterprise–these are the future jobs for mechanics.

“We have thousands of cars and need people to come take charge,” said Shereen Gawad, Enterprise Rental car representative. “We are going to continue renting out cars and are going to continue needing technicians for repairs of these cars.”

The automotive program at City College has been certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, as a master training institution. On average, 150 to 200 students are enrolled in the program each semester and can complete the program in two to three semesters.

City College offered a hybrid class in the past and hopes to bring it back as high-tech infused cars pave the future of the industry.

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