The approval from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office came in 22 days – an incredibly quick turnaround, said Professor John Frala, who designed the degree program.
“Companies are calling me about employees already,” Frala said. “These cars are in heavy demand in California and there is a shortage of qualified technicians right now. Not many technicians out in the field are safely trained to work on high-voltage vehicles.”
In spring 2015, the college was chosen to offer a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in automotive technology. The BS degree becomes available in fall 2016. Frala, who worked on the BS program, began developing the concept for the new AS degree four years ago as part of a focus on alternative-fuel technology. In May 2015, Frala also led an effort that secured a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop alternative fuels training. The funds accelerated the creation of the AS degree.
An instructor in Rio Hondo College’s Automotive Technology Program tests a high-voltage battery as part of the program’s focus on alternative-fuel technologies. Rio Hondo College received approval on April 27 to offer California’s first Associate of Science degree in hybrid/electric vehicle/fuel cell technology.
To earn the AS degree, students will need to study electrical systems, chemistry, physics and applied mathematics – a combination of skills demanded due to the complex alternative-fuel vehicles. Frala said students in the AS program will qualify to continue in the BS program as well as automotive technology programs at California State University, Los Angeles. They can also earn Certificates of Achievement in the alternative-fuel technology field.
“This new degree adds another avenue to success for Rio Hondo students,” Board of Trustees President Mary Ann Pacheco said.