Automotive engineering certificate program could help advance careers
GREENVILLE — Fast growth in the state’s automotive industry is one of the driving forces behind a new Clemson University program that gives workers an opportunity to stay on the job while learning the skills they need to advance their careers and earn higher pay.
Students who complete the two-semester program based in Greenville will earn a certificate in automotive engineering, as the auto industry creates new jobs and strengthens its role as a cornerstone of the state economy.
Just last month, BMW said it will invest an additional $600 million at its Greer plant, creating 1,000 new jobs over four years. Volvo is building a $500 million manufacturing site in Berkeley County and Mercedes Benz Vans broke ground last year on a $500 million assembly plant in Ladson.
More than 400 auto-related companies call South Carolina home, and 66,000 people are employed in the auto industry, according to the state Department of Commerce. The state has added more than 14,000 automotive jobs since 2011.
Mark Hoffman, an assistant research professor and director of the certificate program, said that while graduate degrees remain central to the Clemson automotive engineering program, some local businesses will be better served by a certificate program that allows employees to keep working.
The certificate program is a condensed version of the master’s program, providing the most essential lessons without the extended time commitment, he said. It could prove helpful for workers not only in large companies but also those employed with suppliers, Hoffman said.
“We can reach a lot of people who are employed in the area, infusing what we do best into the local talent,” he said. “Our industrial partners continuously supply feedback about what skills engineers need to differentiate themselves and have a successful career. As a result, there is no other program like Clemson’s in the country and we are bringing that excellence to the certificate program.”
Students will have a chance to work in state-of-the art laboratories, participate in large design projects with auto industry clients and learn from top Clemson faculty members.
Among the instructors is Imtiaz Haque, the founding chair of the automotive engineering department and the first executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center. He will teach vehicle dynamics in the fall.
Industry employees who enroll in the certificate program should hold an applicable bachelor’s degree. The program is also open to Clemson undergraduates, mostly seniors who are majoring in mechanical and electrical engineering.
Courses will be based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville. New technology being installed at CU-ICAR will allow students to study in virtual classrooms on Clemson’s main campus or at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston.
Additionally, asynchronous online course delivery will allow industrial participants to minimize time taken off from work while completing the program.
Registration is now open for industry employees and Clemson undergraduates. The first course in the certificate program will begin Aug. 25.
The program will cover automotive product innovation, automotive systems, vehicle dynamics and propulsion systems.
Hoffman oversees the program and will teach automobile powertrain systems next spring.
Dee Kivett and Andrej Ivanco are teaching a two-term course that will have students working on mobility-systems projects with industry clients similar to what graduate students do in Deep Orange. As part of Deep Orange, graduate students design and build an entire car.
“On a small scale, we’re taking students in the certificate program through the same basic steps and structure,” Hoffman said. “Our hope is that the groups will come together, find a mobility need and come up with a project. For those who do it, it’s a very powerful tool to have.”
Zoran Filipi, chair of the department of automotive engineering, said the certificate program will help Clemson fulfill its mission as a land-grant university by serving the state’s auto industry.
“The certificate program will broaden the outreach of Clemson’s automotive engineering program and allow a greater portion of the community to leverage the CU-ICAR innovation campus,” he said.