Peninsula College, a National Training Center member of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), is now offering an Alternative Fuels Program, and 15 lucky students began 2012 tuition free, thanks to a one-year pilot program made possible by a National Science Foundation Automotive Technology Education grant.

“The savings to a potential student is approximately $3,700,” said Mike Hansen, coordinator of the college’s Automotive Technology Program. Open enrollment for the pilot program began in November after Peninsula received approval from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and classes started Jan 3.

Students will earn 45 credits and be prepared to work in five different areas, Hansen noted. The areas are hybrids and installing plug-in hybrid kits, compressed natural gas, hydrogen and fuel cells, biofuels and propane and propane conversions. To earn a one-year certificate, students must also take selected English, math and human development courses.

Peninsula AFV program

Participants in a Peninsula College alternative fuels training course look at a computer to access automotive information. Credit: Peninsula College

Currently, Peninsula’s Automotive Technology Program offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. Hansen hopes the one-year Alternative Fuels Certificate will constitute students’ third year in the program.

“This first class is a pilot class,” Hansen explained. “The grant is paying for students’ tuition, so we can see what works and what doesn’t work. When the students are done, they will receive a one-year certificate that states they’ve completed the Alternative Fuels program, the only certified alternative fuels program in the state of Washington.”

Hansen said he would eventually like to see a bachelor’s degree available through the Automotive Technology Program. The first two years would remain the same, allowing students to earn the AAS degree, while the third year would focus on alternative fuels and the fourth year would consist of management training.

In addition, Hansen emphasized the importance of alternative fuels education because it is “the wave of the future.”

“We want to give our students a leg up on any other student going out there and competing for the same job,” he noted. “Hybrids are here to stay, and other AFVs are here to stay because of our depleting fuel supply.”

Hansen also pointed out Peninsula’s membership in the NAFTC has been helping in creating and implementing the AFV Program. “It has helped immensely in the development of the program in both curriculum as well as writing the syllabi,” he added. “I have also used the many contacts I have made while being a member of the NAFTC.”

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