On Wednesday, September 18, parents, students, and local media gathered at the Tesla Gigafactory on the northeastern end of Sparks to congratulate and welcome the Tesla Manufacturing Development Program Class of 2019 as they begin their new careers at Tesla.
Tesla started this program three years ago shortly after it built the Gigafactory in Sparks, contributing a $37.5 million budget to go towards education in the State of Nevada.
Tesla used the money to launch its manufacturing development program and have since helped 60 students graduate from high school and continue their education at Truckee Meadows Community College while launching a career at Tesla. Tesla’s program emphasizes how the on-job experience helps students pick up essential workplace communication skills that prepares them for life after graduation.
In the beginning of the reception/certificate ceremony, Chris Reilly of the Tesla Workforce Development and Education Programs department stated that a lot has changed since the program’s inception in 2016. When building the Gigafactory, Tesla managers asked themselves how they could build talent across the State of Nevada and then started infiltrating local school districts and trying to influence the curriculum with an emphasis on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning format.
Tesla began meeting with students who were particularly interested in engineering/ technology and provided seed money to local robotics clubs. Along with JAG Nevada, a nonprofit that ensures that Nevada students graduate work-ready, Tesla began finding students who were naturally inclined towards making Tesla vehicles and products.
“All (Washoe County) high schools have robotics teams, and almost two-thirds of the elementary schools have them. It costs $1500- $2000 to start a robotics team; Tesla provides support with staff members for training and stipends,” says WCSD Director of Career Technical Education Josh Hartzog.
For the Class of 2019, this past January students were then invited to the factory to interview for available positions and those who were picked participated in “signing days.” Tesla hired 46 students/employees this year from 37 high schools across six school districts in Nevada (one student being from Spanish Springs).
Local Tesla employee Richard Hubert graduated from Reed High School in 2018 and began his career at the Gigafactory in June. When he started high school, Hubert was originally on track to join a medical program with the goal of becoming a pharmacist when he found out about the Tesla Manufacturing Development Program.
“I was interested in mechanical things and there’s a lot of overlap with that in the medical field,” he says. Hubert interviewed for the program in April 2018, was accepted into it, and shortly after started working the night shift in production building the Model 3 while also attending Reed.
“The program for me was more so about taking that critical thinking needed for a medical field and applying that to production of Teslas,” Hubert adds. He says that he was excited when Tesla came to Reed because he had become bored of everything else at the time so the Gigafactory offered something new and exciting.
Roping in Nevada graduates has also helped the Tesla Gigafactory become more efficient- in 2017 it was producing 752 in a week, now it can build 1050 cars in one day.
“We have this untapped STEM program in all these schools, and this (Tesla Gigafactory) is right here. We’re already getting a ton of ideas from these groups, everyone is so motivated to learn,” says Director of Gigafactory Operations Dave Mindrich when addressing the Class of 2019.
“How many people can say, ‘I did something today that makes the world a better place tomorrow?’ You are doing that by coming here every day,” he adds.