December 1, 2021

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Capital Region BOCES students gear up for electric car repair training

A new pilot program to train automotive technicians in electric car technology received a valuable donation Tuesday when Capital Region BOCES took receipt of an electric car to help students train.

The New York Power Authority donated a retired electric vehicle to the BOCES Career & Technical School in Albany to help students develop the skills they need to work in the clean energy industry.

“Nationwide enrollment in automotive schools has been plummeting. This is a great opportunity to foster workforce development in our youth, especially in underprivileged communities,” said Lisa Payne Wansley, vice president of environmental justice at the power authority. “This is game-changing and will serve to level the playing field for adolescents in the Capital Region.” 

To start the program, the power authority donated three retired electric vehicles to automotive technical institutions across the upstate region. Along with Capital Region BOCES, Orleans-Niagara BOCES in Medina in the Finger Lakes and St. Lawrence BOCES in Canton each received a vehicle.

The Capital Region BOCES Automotive Trades Technology Program is divided into four classes with approximately 80 students in total. The program takes two years to complete with students learning skills in engine theory, hybrid vehicle technology, hands-on mechanics, and customer service. Students may also earn specialized certifications within the program. 

Local Schenectady High School student, Jonathan Kempadoo, is in his second year of the automotive program and has earned an Automotive Service Excellence certification from Hunter Engineering Company. 

“Our program was already advanced technology-wise. The addition of an electric vehicle curriculum and hands-on model is highly transformative for myself and my peers. We now have access to technology that local shops do not possess,” said 17-year-old Kempadoo. “When the time comes to pursue a career in the automotive industry, we will have acquired the knowledge to surpass the other competition.”

Kempadoo plans to pursue a college education after he completes the BOCES program.

“I want to study electrical engineering in wiring or further my automotive studies. The inclusion of an electrical curriculum is extremely beneficial to me as it will allow me to more easily transition into my post-secondary education,” Kempadoo said. “Textbooks cannot reproduce the hands-on experience we will gain from working on an electric car. This new curriculum shows that as times move on, so do we.”

The new BOCES clean energy curriculum was funded with a $100,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for the purchase of lab tools, charging equipment, and educational resources concerning electric vehicles.

“There are shops around here that will not touch hybrid or electrical vehicles due to their lack of knowledge or experience,” Kempadoo said. “Having our own electric car to work on offers us such a unique opportunity and affords us experience that is currently limited within the job market.”

Also in his second year of the BOCES Automotive program, Scotia teen Alexander Pelletier mirrored his classmates’ excitement regarding the introduction of a clean energy vehicle curriculum. 

“I cannot wait to begin learning the mechanics of electrical vehicles.  I love the electrical aspect of automotives and technology. After I complete this program, my goal is to attend college and study computer hardware and software,” said Pelletier.  “Our new program will benefit me no matter what path I choose to take and give me a significant head start.”

The New York Power Authority Clean Energy Workforce initiative was developed by an employee who suggested the idea. The power authority facilitates a program named “Eureka!” that encourages authority employees to propose ideas to improve departments and community outreach. Power authority employees Eric Pedersen and Cullen Brown came up with the idea to donate the vehicles to local technical schools. 

“When a car is no longer able to be used by the company they are retired and auctioned off. Cullen and I devised a plan to find a more purposeful use for these vehicles. We proposed the idea and received amazing feedback,” said Pederson, director of operations portfolio management for the power authority. “After two years of a ton of revisements and iterations, we were able to make our plan a reality. These vehicles are now a teaching tool for the youth. We couldn’t be happier.”

The Clean Energy Workforce Training Program seeks to advance the goals delineated in New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The 2019 decree calls for the state of New York to reduce carbon emissions to 40 percent lower than 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050. The plan also includes the outlining of a zero-emission electricity system. The act is meant to serve as a new standard for the nation to promote and expedite a clean energy economy. 

“It would have never been possible to initiate this program and allocate resources without the aid of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and NYPA. The introduction of this program is imperative in closing the gap between technology manufacturers and educators,” said Brian LaCroix, BOCES automotive instructor. 

In addition to the donated 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Capital Region BOCES facility also received an electric supercharger donated by the DePaula Automotive Group. With financial limitations, the new BOCES clean energy program relies on technological donations from local partners. 

“I want to thank the New York Power Authority for this generous car donation to help train the next generation of automotive service technicians,” said Anita Murphy, Capital Region BOCES district superintendent. “It will allow our students to work on a hybrid vehicle for the first time—affording them hands-on experience to learn the safe and appropriate way to maintain and repair the automobiles of today and the future.” 

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