London·Q & A

Fanshawe College set to launch green vehicle tech program in 2024

CBC's Colin Butler spoke with Fanshawe College about the new green vehicle technology program set to launch in fall 2024.

Electric vehicle industry is changing dramatically and very quickly, Fanshawe dean says

man plugs in electric car
Fanshawe’s Green Vehicle Technology program, set to launch in September 2024, will be housed at the school's Centre for Applied Transportation Technologies on Oxford Street in London, Ont. (Submitted by Fanshawe College)

The transportation sector has long been a core piece of southwestern Ontario's economy, and that is expected to grow — and get greener — as a new electric vehicle battery plant is set to come to St. Thomas, bringing thousands of jobs to the region. 

The shift toward a greener automotive industry has led Fanshawe College to start a new program to train students for the growing sector. The two-year program is called the Green Vehicle Technology Program and is set to launch in fall 2024.

CBC's Colin Butler spoke with Steve Patterson, Fanshawe College's dean of the faculty of science, trades and technology to learn more. 

The following has been edited for length and clarity:

CB: What led Fanshawe to gear up and launch this program?

SP: The EVT (electric vehicle technology) market right now, with all the government incentives and industry movements and some of the socio-political conversations about who decides what Canadians buy and drive and at what cost. How do we keep up with the economy and all of our woes on the environmental front? It's time for Fanshawe to get involved with the EVT industry by way of providing a diploma in the fall of 2024, which we're super excited about.

International and domestic students will be coming here to learn about safety, ownership, repair, electrical fundamentals, power systems, maintenance, battery and hydrogen technologies alike, and it's going to be an amazing hands-on and theoretical experience and we're looking forward to it.

CB: What do you see are the future needs of the transportation industry in southwestern Ontario as we make the transition to electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles?

SP: In 2023, the McKinsey & Company predicted a six-fold growth between 2021 and 2030 from $6.5 million to $40 million units sold globally for EVT. That is matched with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change's target of 1/5 of all vehicles sold by 2026 to be carbon neutral and 100 per cent by 2035. With these aggressive targets, the industry is changing dramatically and very quickly.

Most recently, we've done an amazing partnered approach with Automotive Industries Association Canada and other colleges around the province, including St. Lawrence College and Conestoga College. Through a great skill-development fund from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration Training and Skills Development, we are doing exactly the kind of change-management that is required. That is really upscaling industry agents, modernizing training curricula, addressing labour shortage and getting the right free training to employers and participants in the automotive industry, which is a $37.8-billion auto sector in Canada.

We're trying to get the tip of the spear into the curriculum and into the colleges that ultimately support our communities. 

man in turquoise sweater smiling
Steve Patterson is the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Trades and Technology at Fanshawe College. (Submitted by Fanshawe College)

CB: What sort of jobs are you preparing them for?

SP: We have programs that will be involved with material science to be able to manufacture, assemble and maintain the power systems, which are ultimately batteries and sometimes hydrogen systems. Then we have technicians who will ultimately repair EVTs at a local level, just like you do with your car shop today. We have an array of programs to meet the spectrum of what's involved in the EVT community.

CB: How big is this program expected to be?

SP: I think in time it's going to be pretty big. We have many different programs that really create a suite of services around training for the EVT industry. I suspect at Fanshawe College alone, we will see several hundred students within that portfolio within two to three years. 

CB: What role do you see Fanshawe College playing as this sector grows?

SP: I think we're really well-situated for automotive manufacturing and parts supply.  think that you'll see a lot of great news coming from the region soon as the government and the province both support what is probably one of the closest (markets) to the U.S. and a destination for international students and international partners for the region.