Motlow State Community college is developing future electric vehicle technology workers

Transportation electrification is Tennessee’s future.

Major automotive manufacturers are pivoting toward electric vehicles (EVs), battery suppliers are opening or ramping up operations in the Southeast — now seen as the nation’s “battery belt” — and Tennesseans are benefitting from high-paying green jobs.

Put simply, electrification offers endless opportunities for economic and community development in our state. After all, current Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development figures indicate that EV projects represent over $16.2 billion in capital investments since 2017, while the industry employs more than 20,800 Tennesseans.

Motlow drives EV workforce development

This statewide move toward electrification isn’t limited to industry players. Motlow State Community College saw an opportunity to train our students in the latest EV technology and give them more opportunities to access “jobs of the future.”

This fall, Motlow-McMinnville will roll out a certification program in EV Technology. Beginning in spring 2025, the school will offer an associate of applied science (AAS) in Electric Vehicle Technology and an AAS in Mechatronics with a concentration in EV Technology.

But Motlow cannot train the next generation of EV workers alone, and major automakers cannot usher in widespread EV adoption in a vacuum. We must form long-term, strategic partnerships across industry, higher education and government sectors.

More: City of Springfield's first electric vehicle fast-charging station opens near Highway 41

TEAM TN partnership: Motlow, Nissan and Eaton

Motlow is proud to be part of TEAM TN, a statewide coalition to help shape the future of mobility and usher in a new era of economic prosperity in Tennessee. As TEAM TN’s workforce development collaborator, I have connected with industry leaders across the state who are working to make Tennessee a leader in electrification.

Through TEAM TN, Motlow has partnered with Nissan USA and Eaton, an intelligent power management company, to provide students with hands-on training and exposure to EVs, charging stations, and battery technology.

Since the creation of the first gas-powered automobile, the relationship between the fuel source and cars has been relatively unchanged. EVs have upended this relationship entirely. Now, it’s essential to have a holistic understanding of how vehicles, batteries and charging networks interact and function.

The Nissan LEAF has been completely reinvented, combining greater range with a dynamic new design and advanced technologies, representing Nissan’s technological leadership.
The Nissan LEAF has been completely reinvented, combining greater range with a dynamic new design and advanced technologies, representing Nissan’s technological leadership.

Recently, Nissan and Eaton solidified their support for Motlow’s EV Program and workforce development efforts with two generous gifts. Nissan donated four EVs — three LEAFS and a brand-new ARIYA — and Eaton donated seven of its Green Motion EV chargers, including its smart EV circuit breaker chargers.

With Nissan’s vehicles and Eaton’s charging infrastructure, Motlow can equip students with hands-on learning opportunities and spark potential career paths in electrification. Our goal is to provide quality workforce development training, change the public narrative around EV adoption, and bring educational opportunities to students across our state's rural, suburban and urban areas.

I am beyond grateful for our partners’ support of Motlow’s vision.

More: Tennessee hybrid and electric car drivers to pay up to $200 in additional fees starting this year

What’s next in the growing electric vehicle sector?

Motlow’s partnership with Nissan and Eaton is just the beginning. We want to foster these relationships, forge new ones and take our partnerships to the next level.

Tennessee’s EV journey began in 2013 when the first electric car came off Nissan’s assembly line at its Smyrna facility.

In 2024, it’s my hope that people and organizations interested in further shaping the future of mobility will follow our lead and form or foster existing partnerships to create a more equitable and sustainable transportation system for all Tennesseans.

Michael Torrence
Michael Torrence

Dr. Michael Torrence is president of Motlow State Community College and a TEAM TN workforce development working group collaborator. TEAM TN is a partnership with the National Science Foundation and is an alliance of more than 100 academics, industries, communities, and technical societies led by The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Electric vehicles: Motlow State helps develop EV technology workers