Changes to Education to Serve Private Interests

St. Clair College, a community college in Windsor, has announced plans to launch an Electric Drive Vehicle Technician diploma and an Electric Drive Vehicle Fundamentals certification program, approved by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU), in response to the building of an electric battery plant and electric car assembly plant in the area. The plant is being publicly financed in partnership with LG and Stellantis.

The battery and assembly plants have already received substantial amounts of public funds and now the provision of free research and training for the operations is a big focus. The battery plant, a partnership between LG and Stellantis, is being publicly financed by all levels of government and while the amounts have yet to be disclosed estimates put it in the range of $500 million. The city of Windsor itself purchased the land it sits on for $50 million and has provided a 20 year tax holiday valued at $70 million. The re-tooling of the Stellantis’ assembly plant is receiving up to $500 million from the federal government alone. 

Waseem Habash, senior vice-president of academic and college operations at St. Clair, said that the college has been preparing for this transition for several years and expressed excitement about the opportunities the new programs will offer to students. “We’re really excited because this puts Windsor on the map and gives our graduates, the young generation, the next generation, the opportunity to have jobs for a long time,” Habash said.

The Electric Drive Vehicle Technician program will prepare students for a career as an Electric Vehicle Technician, responsible for the maintenance, service, and repair of electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). The Electric Drive Vehicle Fundamentals program will introduce students to the fundamentals of EVs and provide them with a foundation for the Technician program. The program will cover topics such as Electric/Electronic fundamentals, electrified vehicle systems and components, high-voltage safety, and EV maintenance.

Tuition for a two-year program at St. Clair College currently costs around $4,000 for domestic students and $15,300 for international students. Domestic students are eligible for student loans, which they must repay with interest once they start earning above a certain threshold.

The University of Windsor is also planning to offer a mechatronics engineering program in 2024 with a focus on manufacturing and producing electric vehicles. Mechatronics engineering is the design of computer-controlled electromechanical systems, and it encompasses the mechanical, electrical, electronic, and computer control aspects of a system. Graduates of such programs have gone on to develop advanced prosthetics, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, autonomous vehicles, and robotics.

The University of Waterloo already offers the program, which it started developing in 2000. It currently has an enrollment of around 110 students, with annual tuition fees of $17,100 for domestic students and $61,300 for international students, not including the cost of books, room and board and living expenses. The program is four years and eight months long and often includes a co-op component where students work for companies in the field. While they receive payment, they must also simultaneously pay fees for the co-op program. Companies subsequently receive trained labour free of cost. Based on the length of time to get a degree, the cost of tuition alone for the full program for a domestic student would be roughly $79,686 while for an international student it is $285,658.

In profiles of its graduates, the University highlights two from 2015 who began a startup called Embark Trucks, focused on the problems of having self-driving trucks. The company has set up a model of charging trucking companies per-mile subscription fees for their software to allow self-driving trucks. It plans to enable carrier operations beginning in 2024. The company recently made a deal with a large company which provided it with $614 million to fund its self-driving software for long distance freight trips.

It shows how the thrust of post-secondary education is being geared to serve the needs of the new economy which is being brought into being by providing their needs with the educated personnel they require free of cost to themselves. Private contracts are then entered into between the individuals who become the best and the brightest and the large private entities. The students and their families fund the tuition and along with public funds, workers are tailor-made to serve the requirements of the electric vehicle (EV) industry based on artificial intelligence.

One question this raises is where the monies required to fund social programs, such as health, education, and culture, will come from? While those who make it in the new economy may be able to fund their own private health and social insurance plans, the majority of the people are being thrown under the bus. Advances in technology are the creation of the productive forces as a whole and they must benefit current and future generations. This issue is not being addressed because those in control of the direction which is being set for the economy are the very giants which have usurped state power and are wielding it to serve themselves. Despite this, the future can only come into being when the workers create it themselves. They must set the direction of the economy by empowering themselves which can be done by making sure they take up the problem of making sure the value created by these new productive forces is used for the benefit of the people, their collectives, including their communities, and the general interests of society itself.

(With files from the University of Waterloo)