Mayor, UNR, TMCC further relationships with tech companies

Reno’s interest in new businesses like Tesla and Switch continues to develop.

In an interview with RSJ students on Oct. 21, Mayor Hillary Schieve said, “We are working with the university and very strongly with TMCC to provide [work] forces specific to those industries.”

The University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College want their students hired as part of this employment growth. The Nevada State Demographer’s Office projects that, in 2016, over 8,000 people will be employed in Storey County alone.

Part of this increase is due to the Tesla Motors Inc. gigafactory being built in Storey County to make batteries for Tesla’s electric cars. Tesla projects that it will hire 6,500 employees for the Reno factory.

Similar forecasts are given for Switch, a data collection center moving to the Reno area. According to IQ Technology Solutions, a local technology support company, Switch is expected to create thousands of Reno-area jobs to mirror the number of jobs it created for its Las Vegas location.

Schieve said she supports the development of skilled job training. She said she thinks this training will allow locals to be hired at businesses like Tesla and Switch because those businesses are looking for people with specific technical skills. Working toward the same goal, UNR and TMCC have started training and internship programs to connect students to these businesses.

TMCC started its Production Technician Certificate of Achievement Program Sept. 14. The program trains students to be technicians for mass production and automation. This type of training allows students to be considered for employment at companies like Tesla and Switch. “TMCC has been actively engaging local employers, including Tesla,” TMCC Grant Project Manager Cheryl Olson said. “To date, Tesla has hired several current production technician students, as well as recent graduates.”

UNR has also connected students with Tesla. Joseph Bozsik, the UNR internship coordinator for the College of Engineering, said a Tesla engineer has already held a meeting with UNR’s top engineering students and UNR faculty. The UNR Career Studio also put students in contact with Tesla at the 2015 Summer Job and Internship Expo. Elizabeth Loun of the Career Studio said that students waited up to four hours to speak to Tesla recruiters. Two UNR students received summer internships at Tesla. One was a doctoral candidate in chemistry, the other was an undergraduate in chemical engineering.

Loun added that UNR’s partnership with Tesla will continue to grow. She said there will be new internships available at Tesla during the spring and summer of 2016. As Tesla’s website states, these interns will help engineer Tesla’s manufacturing processes, design equipment to be used on the production lines and help troubleshoot manufacturing issues.

In addition to the interest shown by Mayor Schieve, UNR and TMCC, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada supports collaboration between local colleges and businesses. EDAWN executive Nancy McCormick said companies like Tesla see the university as a critical factor in their success. Bozsik concurred, saying that companies are interested in leveraging the expertise of UNR to benefit their own operations.

McCormick also said there is a concerted effort by the City of Reno to build its “brand.” To McCormick, an important part of that new image is a clear perception of Reno as a university and business town; working with businesses like Tesla will help create that fresh image.

While Olson, Bozsik, Loun and McCormick said they are not aware of any specific projects where the city connects UNR and TMCC to businesses like Tesla and Switch, the city has publicly supported connections between UNR, TMCC, Tesla and Switch. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that the Innevation Center downtown was purchased from the City of Reno by Switch, which then helped create the center in a collaboration with UNR. The partnership received praise from Schieve. The RGJ reported her saying, “This project demonstrates the impact that comes with being a university town.”

Concerning space, TMCC’s Olson said, “TMCC could use the support of the city as well as [Washoe] County in the form of space for additional training facilities. The TMCC facility that houses the Production Technician Program is currently at or exceeding capacity.” There are approximately 98 students in the program.

Though the city has not yet provided TMCC additional space, it is working with Reno’s higher education institutions in other ways. Morgan Martin, a city government facilitator said, “The Associated Students of Nevada is working on city-to-university initiatives.” ASUN’s President Caden Fabbi and Speaker of the Senate Nick Andrew proposed annual meetings between ASUN and the city at the Sept. 23 City Council meeting.

Schieve also expressed a strong desire to work closely with UNR students: “We are going to implement a university board,” she said. Schieve also said she wants the board with UNR to give students a voice in city government. However, that connection is still being developed. According to Schieve, it is possible that, when created, the board would address more relationships between UNR and businesses like Tesla and Switch.

Just like Tesla and Switch are still developing their Reno locations, the relationships between these businesses, city government, UNR and TMCC are still developing.

This article was finalized November 2, 2015, for Journalism 207 at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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