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Peninsula College offers Alternative Fuels Certificate for automotive program

Peninsula College is the only community college in Washington State and one of only a handful in the nation to offer an approved, accredited one-year Alternative Fuels Certificate Program. 

According to Mike Hansen, Automotive Technology program coordinator and instructor, the program admits 15 students each year. The 45-credit curriculum includes components for vehicles in the following categories: hybrid and electric, compressed natural gas, propane, bio-diesel, flex fuel and ethanol-powered. Students also take selected English, A-Math and human development courses. 

The program was made possible by a National Science Foundation Automotive Technology Education grant of $150,000. The two-year grant, which started in October 2010, provided $75,000 each year to the college to build the curriculum. 

Hansen has recently completed the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Certificate of Compendence in Advanced Hybrid Diagnosis. He is one of only two college instructors in the state of Washington to have this certification and joins an elite group of technicians and instructors worldwide who have achieved this status.

Hansen’s new certification allows the Automotive Technology program at Peninsula College to teach the most cutting edge diagnostics for hybrid vehicles. 

“When our students graduate from the alternative fuels program,” Hansen says, “they will be able to diagnose and repair any hybrid vehicle on the market, making them a very valuable asset to any automotive repair shop. With the automotive industry headed toward the hybrid and alternative fuels to meet the federal requirements for fuel economy, our students will be well positioned to find a living wage job in the automotive industry."

The students who enrolled in Peninsula College’s first Alternative Fuels Certificate Program came from a number of diverse backgrounds, including a disabled veteran with two children; a 27-year-old ex-Navy man originally from Madison, WI; a 23-year-old who had been working with cars since the age of 13; and two young women who were looking for an alternative career field where they could advance, be their own boss and make good money.

To date, more than a dozen students have graduated from the Alternative Fuels Certificate Program and a few spots are still open for the beginning of the 2014 fall quarter. 

Hansen has been constantly accessing the program’s effectiveness and has even bigger plans for the future. One of the things he is looking at is a possible expansion of the program, including adding instruction in other types of alternative fuel, such as generating fuel out of bio-waste.
 Hansen is also investigating enhanced program delivery methods, such as online and hybrid courses (a combination of online and face-to-face labs) as well as streaming video that will address the needs of time- and place-bound students, incumbent workers, Automotive Technology graduates and advanced Automotive Technology students.

“Once we have enhanced the curriculum, we hope to make it available to other automotive programs across the country,” Hansen says. 

Another bonus of the program is that, as a result of the Alternative Fuels Program, Peninsula College is also affiliated with the Western Washington Clean Cities Program.

Peninsula College’s Automotive Program also offers two two-year degrees, the AAS and AAS-T, and eight short-term proficiency certificates. The entire curriculum combines theory and hands-on experiences with the development of interpersonal skills and has been designed to meet the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) standards and has been awarded NATEF certification.

Individuals who are interested in the program should contact Hansen at Peninsula College at mhansen@pencol.edu or by phone at 360-417-6540. Certain prerequisites or the permission of the instructor are required in order to enroll. 

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