The California Energy Commission has awarded Cal State LA a $500,000 grant for workforce development related to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV).
With California’s commitment to implementing ZEV transportation by 2035, there is a growing need to create and develop a workforce ready to meet the increased technical requirements and demands that support zero-emission fuel technologies.
Cal State LA is a leading university in climate change and sustainability education and research. It is home to the Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, the largest such facility on a university campus in the United States that produces its own hydrogen on site via electrolysis.
The three-year grant will help Cal State LA develop and implement a new training curriculum bridging skills gaps for future ZEV engineers and working toward the state’s goal of producing a viable workforce.
“The grant is a valuable recognition of our multi-year efforts in advance implementing hydrogen technology in California,” said David Blekhman, professor of technology and principal investigator of the grant. “In addition to research and demonstration projects, the Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility has been engaged in shaping the future engineering talent for the hydrogen and ZEV industry.”
Blekhman, who is also technical director for the Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, is dedicated to training the next generation of professionals in the field. He has developed the Sustainable Energy and Transportation Program in the university’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology to provide students with hands-on living lab experiences.
Currently, seven students—six engineering majors and one nutritional science major—are being trained at the hydrogen station. Blekhman said that two recent graduates who trained at the hydrogen station are now earning $80,000 annually in the hydrogen industry.
Blekhman’s targeted training and student-centered research of rapidly evolving alternative fuel technologies are fundamental to the development and advancement of California’s clean energy workforce.
Funded by the California Energy Commission, the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency, this pilot aims at accelerating and enhancing the work-study intern training practices at the Cal State LA hydrogen station, while also ensuring a pipeline of new trainees in the program.
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In collaboration with Cerritos College and industry partners, the program will also create learning maps that prioritize job skills needed in the future workforce of zero-emission vehicle technologies. These will help guide the curriculum development and provide a foundational structure for the redesign of the current internship training program.
Photo: Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)