Tesla START Fort Bend County campus first cohort graduation

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Fort Bend County campus saw its first Tesla START cohort graduate Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.

Chapman Lai, Richie Martinez, Aaron McKenzie, Vincent Packer, Christopher Ramos, Paul Schwab, Dy’Quon Starling and Nathaniel Steinbicker received certificates from Tesla and TSTC.

The Tesla START program gives students the skills necessary to become advanced electric vehicle technicians at Tesla. As a Tesla-paid hourly intern during the program, students develop technical expertise and earn certifications through a blended approach of in-class theory, hands-on labs and self-paced learning.

All students who successfully complete the nationwide program are eligible to work at a Tesla service center in the United States.

Each graduate placed a pin on a map of the United States, representing the location of the service center where they will continue their career with Tesla.

Dylan Lane, a Tesla START instructor, thanked TSTC for its support, nearby Tesla service centers for accepting the cohort and fostering their training, and the graduates’ families, some of whom attended the ceremony.

“You all shared in the sacrifices required to undertake this truly demanding and time-consuming program,” Lane said.

Lane’s advice for the graduates included lending a helping hand to those in need, continuing to seek knowledge, and never being afraid to fail.

“The opportunities available to you are endless,” he said. “Stay driven.”

Other Tesla team members were on hand to celebrate, including Tesla START instructor Tony Marquez, who kicked off the cohort’s first day on campus, Jose Garcia, the Tesla START manager, and Jessica Justiniano, another Tesla START instructor who came out of retirement to help train this cohort.

“I like to talk about how much diversity we have in Tesla in general, and we can see that here,” Justiniano said. “We have people from all over the place. You guys worked so hard. I can’t wait to see what you end up doing in your service centers.”

Adam Barber, TSTC’s executive director of Workforce Training, congratulated the graduates on their hard work — and the mark they made as the initial Tesla START cohort on campus.

“First class, you set the bar high,” he said. “Although you’re leaving TSTC, you’ll always have us as a family, partner and resource. We’re here for you.”

Martinez was excited to complete the program and move to Colorado for his new job. His sister lives there.

Still, it will be an adjustment to say goodbye to the rigorous Tesla START program.

“It’s weird for me because we made it routine every week: waking up at 5 a.m. and getting off of work and studying all night,” he said.

For McKenzie, who will be moving to Connecticut, the end of the program was also bittersweet.

“I’d still be excited if we had another week to see what is coming, but it’s exciting to move on and actually get started working,” he said.

Originally from Connecticut, McKenzie loved his experience in the program — especially with the other members of his cohort and the Tesla START instructors.

“You come in not knowing much,” he said. “Once you get through the class and you get to actually be involved and see the community and culture — not to mention all the technology they have — it’s amazing.”

There are currently Tesla START partnerships with colleges in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington — and at TSTC’s campus in Waco.

The Tesla START program was launched in 2019 and has had more than 300 graduates to date. 

The estimated cost of the program is $2,700. Students are paid $15 an hour and receive full health benefits while in the program. Prospective students can find admission requirements and more information at tstc.edu/workforce/tesla-start.

For additional information on Tesla START, go to tesla.com/careers/tesla-start

Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.

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