TMCC and Tesla: Cutting-Edge Celebration

Students who have completed their certifications assemble beside Tesla vehicle for photo inside TMCC William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center.
Jared Libby

When you walked through the TMCC William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center on Thursday, April 27, an air of next-generation ambition was present. Partnering with an organization such as Tesla has been fundamental in producing students capable of transforming their respective fields as they bring unique ideas and perspectives to combat contemporary challenges. Within this titan of innovative technology, the Tesla START program has rewarded graduates with tremendous personal and professional growth. This achievement cemented their position as vital service technicians in future vehicle transportation, safety, and design.

75 Tesla START graduates have now obtained their certification, including 30 START Quality grads!

The alliance between TMCC and the Tesla START initiative also established a state-of-the-art space with eight fully operative robots to enhance training in automation courses. Additionally, the presentation of a new classroom was on the agenda, assuring that productive discussions and review of diagnostic procedures are fundamental before getting first-hand experience in the workshops. The presentation of this cooperative learning area would serve as another reason to cheer throughout the proceedings!

Ride Into a Greener Tomorrow

This collaboration has seen its fair share of success throughout the year, including a March 17 completion ceremony, when students received an Advanced Manufacturing Skills Certificate. In the same joyful spirit, family and friends gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the Fall Manufacturing, Spring Manufacturing, and Spring Quality cohorts.

As you stepped inside, a slick, jet-black Tesla with butterfly doors extended was there to greet you. Its neon blue interior lights captured the attention of passersby, and many were eager to take a photo of them smiling in its polished accommodations, admiring the impeccable detail and intuitive interface. If you were hoping to take it for a spin, all you needed to do was make an appointment with the representative who never strayed too far away. The best seat in the house, no doubt.

Wizard made his rounds, and when children weren’t flocking to him, he was cheering on the individuals who had surpassed this milestone in their lives with selfies or an animated two thumbs-up.

Kurstyn VanHelsing, Tesla executive and Master of Ceremonies, welcomed the crowd and praised the accomplishments of those receiving certifications, an outcome of their extensive training and another feather in the cap for our dedicated instructors and administrators.

The pride was felt among students and teachers alike, knowing that while every path has its challenges, it’s better to tread through them unified than alone. A bond exists between the educator and the learner, and graduation is a moment in time when that cycle of cooperation is honored.

TMCC President Dr. Karin Hilgersom was excited to congratulate this group on gaining the technical skills and tenacity required to thrive in this ambitious industry.

“The real reason we are here today is to celebrate two things! The first celebration is of our wonderful students, who have finished their Tesla START and START quality certifications. We are so proud of you! With knowledge and determination, you have taken the first step toward a rewarding career. Congratulations!” said Hilgersom.

“The second reason to celebrate is our new joint classroom, which we are revealing soon. This classroom is a perfect example of how the business community and higher education can combine forces to ensure that the workers of tomorrow are getting the training they need right now. It is genuinely exciting!”

Kreg Mebust, Interim Dean of Technical Sciences, shared an entertaining and relatable speech, reciting a quote from B.B. King that rings true in the hearts and minds of any student pursuing their educational dreams.

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you,” said Mebust.

Michael DeBlasi, Tesla Technical Trainer, complimented the graduating cohorts for their receptiveness to the many advanced methods and applications they studied this semester, hinting at the groundbreaking work they'll undertake in this revolutionary field.

At last, names rang out, and students headed toward the platform to receive their recognition and coveted goodie bags, certifying they had completed their program!

The Future Lies Within the Classroom

After the final recipient received their certificate, the room turned its attention toward a classroom upstairs. Dr. Hilgersom and Chris Reilly, Director of Recruiting and Workforce Development at Tesla, stood together, gripping each handle of an oversized pair of scissors and facing a bright green ribbon stretched out before them.

On the count of 3, they leaned forward and clipped the streamer in two! Confetti poppers burst, and a rainbow of glittering flakes fluttered gently to the floor. The joint classroom had officially been cemented as an enduring union between TMCC and Tesla, sure to provide exceptional professional training for the years ahead.

The peers assembled for a group photo beside the car and, in true graduate fashion, propelled their newly acquired Tesla baseball caps into the air! This moment of success will always remain in their lives, instilling them with the confidence and skills to shape a better future.

“With Tesla, it was a chance to jump in on an organization trying to help the environment. Knowing it was a start-up with electric cars, I wanted to be part of something bigger. That’s what it comes down to. I treat everything as a learning experience,” said Katherine Varner, one of the students receiving her completion certification.

“I can see myself moving up a little in the company and becoming a leader. I hope to take a few more classes, too. You can never have too much knowledge. Completing this course opened me up to the potential of their other programs,” continued Varner.

“I chose Tesla for the benefits and fell in love with the company. Together [with TMCC], they created specific classes to take, some more relevant to different jobs than others, but overall provided enough general knowledge to understand what was happening and why. Wherever Tesla needs me, I will go. The SEMI and Cybertruck are my latest projects, and I look forward to whatever we dream up next,” said Nicole Corey, another graduating student.

For more information, please visit the Applied Technologies and Tesla START websites.