Switching Gears: From Durham Tech to Tesla, two automotive students land dream job

Patrick Myers (left) and Brendan Sanders (right)

Two Durham Tech students are now on the road to Tesla after finishing at the top of their Tesla START program class.

With assisted job placement after the program, Patrick Myers and Brendan Sanders started as Service Technicians at the Tesla Service Center in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Aug. 20.

But before leaving Durham, they met their former Automotive Director Nate Smith for dinner.

“I think I started crying,” Smith said, when he heard the news. “This is what happens when you get folks who really want to go to the top and these guys are going to the top.”

Myers, 26, and Sanders, 23, completed the Tesla START program on August 3.

“We both thought this was at least something to chase down and four months later — here we are,” Sanders said.

Tesla START is a rigorous 12-week program designed to provide students with the skills necessary to work at a Tesla Service Center. Offered through Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, the program prepares graduates to hit the ground running on Day 1 of their new careers.

“Six months ago I never thought I’d be working for Tesla,” Myers said. “Compared to other opportunities in the automotive industry right now, it is leaps and bounds better in terms of pay and it is the cutting edge of automotive technology.”

Myers and Sanders found out about the new program in April. Only 15 spots were available.

Both students submitted their resumes, transcripts, and letters of recommendation before doing a phone interview and in-person interview at Tesla. Within one week they were notified of their acceptance.

“We were both surprised and excited to find out we got accepted into the program,” Sanders said. “We thought it was a long shot, but to actually realize we’d have the opportunity to work on the cutting edge of the automotive industry is really exciting.”

For three months, students developed technical expertise and earned certifications through a blended approach of in-class theory, hands-on labs, and self-paced learning. They learned skills specific to electric vehicles, including battery architecture, charging technology, and Tesla-specific repair procedures.

“I was excited about all of the material and I wanted to absorb as much of it as I could,” Sanders said. “The program was extremely challenging. It took everything that everyone had to give. It’s one of those things where you put in as much as you can and that’s how much you’re going to get back out, and I think everyone really rose to meet that bar.”

Both students pursued higher education at the University of North Carolina before enrolling at Durham Tech.

“I left UNC and came here two years ago to pursue my passion, which was automotive,” Sanders said. “When I came to Durham Tech for the first time, I walked into the shop and just felt at home. I’m with my people here and never looked back. I could have never foreseen Tesla would be my end point, but I’m so grateful I came to Durham Tech.”

Myers earned a Bachelors in Mathematics from UNC before his wife encouraged him to pursue his automotive passion.

“Coming to Durham Tech was great because I could walk into Nate’s office and ask (Automotive Instructor Taylor) Ward a question whenever I needed,” Myers said. “It was that ability to get the help I needed immediately that helped the rate of learning and made it easier to add to my knowledge base. Durham Tech gave me the career I was looking for. If I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. It goes to show how good college can be for networking opportunities.”

Sanders said he looks forward to playing a role in Tesla’s mission.

“We learned a lot about the company while we were there and one of the things that was really attractive was the mission of the company,” Sanders said. “Being able to do what I love to do and make a difference for the world potentially, as we go forward, is pretty meaningful to me.”

Smith said he couldn’t be more proud of Myers and Sanders for this accomplishment.

“It’s a credit to Durham Tech, to our department, and to all of the instructional staff,” Smith said. “This is what happens when you give it all you got. These guys have jumpstarted their careers by 10 years.”

Myers and Sanders graduated from the second Tesla START class, which piloted in Spring 2018. The Tesla START program is currently offered at Central Piedmont Community College, Rio Hondo College in Whitter, CA, Shoreline Community College in Seattle, WA, and Macomb Community College in Detroit, MI. Tesla anticipates 70-80 students will graduate by the end of 2018.