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Tesla recruits apprentices in Elko

ELKO – Interested in a tour of Tesla’s Gigafactory? For high school juniors and seniors, a visit could lead to a career in renewable energy and a two-year college degree.

About 100 students, parents and teachers learned more about Tesla Inc.’s education initiative Feb. 25 at the Red Lion Inn and Casino. The electric car company is offering high school graduates an apprenticeship that includes full-time employment and a 20-credit scholarship from Truckee Meadows Community College in automation and robotics.

“We’re focusing on juniors and seniors for the trip to the Gigafactory for this program, specifically,” said Chris Reilly, workforce development and education lead at Tesla a few hours before the information session. “We want to have an open night where the parents can ask questions about Tesla and students can learn more about the career pathway.”

Recently, Tesla committed to a $37.5 million investment in K-12 education in Nevada for five years. Elko County School District secondary education director Chris McAnany said that the possibility for an “educational partnership with Tesla” is opening the door to “21st-century college and career opportunities.”

“This would be one of the ways that we are ensuring Elko County students continue to receive access to cutting-edge educational opportunities that can lead them to post-secondary education and professional success,” McAnany said.

The apprenticeship pilot program began in 2017 at a Las Vegas school which had its own manufacturing career and technical education program, Reilly explained, inspiring the company to design a program that invited interested 11th- and 12th-graders to tour the Reno-based Gigafactory. Juniors participate in a resume workshop, while seniors interview for a full-time job as a production associate.

Reilly said Tesla started with 13 students in the pilot program, and increased to more than 50 apprentices in August, with Jobs for American Graduates also participating in the program.

“Our goal is to have 50-60 students from across the state every year start a career at Gigafactory as part of this program,” Reilly said. Although the company has two other Gigafactories – one in Buffalo, New York, and one in Shanghai, China – along with a new one being planned in Europe, Telsa decided to seek homegrown, untapped talent in the state, including rural Nevada.

“I think we see Nevada as a get-things-done state, and that mindset is consistent throughout,” Reilly said.

As a production associate, students build battery packs and electrical motors, taking online courses that directly relate to the hands-on experience they receive on the job. But it must be more than just a job for apprentices, Reilly emphasized. It must be a passion for the work which seeps into “every level of the company.”

“The biggest commonality we see at Gigafactory is a passion for Tesla’s mission,” Reilly said, “and that mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future .... You see individuals who are here for that purpose.”

Teens who already have an interest in robotics may fit in at Tesla because their “hands-on skills” have prepared them for working at the Gigafactory, Reilly added.

“If an individual has those [skills] in high school, they’re going to come into the workforce more confident and ready to jump in and make a difference,” he said.

The $54.36 billion company employs 7,000 at Gigafactory 1 near Reno. So far, the factory is 5.4 million square feet, and it is not yet done growing, Reilly said.

“It’s real exciting because the facility at Gigafactory is 30 percent built,” Reilly said. For students “starting their career at a company and at a facility that is so early on in its development, there’s a lot of room for growth; kind of getting in on that ground floor.”

To that end, Tesla is communicating with other rural schools to discuss the apprenticeship program and a K-12 outreach, as well as approaching other communities to inform students and parents of the possibilities of the future that await interested high schoolers searching for a tech-based career.

“We definitely see an opportunity to continue to do more of these,” Reilly said. “We want to work with the local community in every part we can when we’re growing like this, and that’s the same way we think about education.”

The information about the attendance at the information session and the company's valued worth has been corrected in the online version of this article. 

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Fire burns garage on Royal Crest Drive

ELKO – Firefighters responded to a garage fire Monday morning on Royal Crest Drive and were able to keep the flames from spreading into the home.

The occupants got out of the house with no injuries.

The fire broke out shortly after 7 a.m. and the garage was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, according to Fire Chief Matt Griego. Smoke entered the attic and the house but there was no fire damage inside the home.

“They did a good job of getting it cut off between the garage and the house,” Griego said.

The home will be inhabitable, however, until electrical repairs have been made in the garage.

Griego said the fire is believed to have been accidental but the cause remains under investigation.

“The City of Elko Fire department would like to thank all the outside resources that assisted us,” said a message on the department’s Facebook page.

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State OKs $8 million in Spring Creek water projects

SPRING CREEK – The status of Spring Creek water facility projects costing $8 million will be updated Wednesday by representatives of Great Basin Water Co.

The company will review which well and tank projects in each of the four association tracts have been approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, nine of which have already been started throughout the association.

The decommission and replacement of one tank in Marina Hills (Tract 100) and a well replacement in Palace Heights (Tract 400) are among the projects the GBWC have started. Back-up generators for a well and an office building in the Vista Grande section (Tract 200) have also commenced.

Four wells will also be rehabilitated and cleaned, along with replacement of pipes classified as either poor or very poor throughout the association.

Among projects that were denied by the PUCN are the replacement of a high tank and retaining wall for Well No. 1 and treatment facility, located in Vista Grande. The relocation of a well and replacement of a wastewater treatment plant in Marina Hills costing $1.7 million also were stricken from the initial project list.

According to the GBWC’s three-year action plan, the proposed total for 19 projects throughout the association was $11,100,726. The total after four projects were denied by the PUCN went down to $8,154,424.

The integrative resource plan was filed March 1 by GBWC. If all projects were approved by the PUCN, the total revenue impact was estimated to be $1 million. Wastewater estimates were stated at $196,059.

GBWC estimated increases to customers with a one-inch pipe at $15.14 per month. Residential sewer customers were estimated to have a monthly charge of $59.94 with commercial sewer customers estimated at $264.68.

It is unclear what the revenue impact would be with only 15 projects.

The Spring Creek Association board of directors meets at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Fairway Community Center, 401 Fairway Blvd.

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Idaho man accused of killing mountain lion near Jarbidge

ELKO – An Idaho man was booked Monday at Elko County Jail on charges of illegally killing a mountain lion two years ago near Jarbidge.

Ralph W. Crown, 57, of Buhl was one of three men contacted Feb. 4, 2017 by an Idaho conservation officer after being seen hunting before dawn with the aid of a spotlight. The men were cited, and the officer noted that Crown’s Idaho hunting license had been suspended three times since 2003 for various violations.

The officer said Crown told him about seeing a lion behind the dump near Jarbidge.

Three months later witnesses reported seeing a dead lion near Sawmill Campground – about a mile from the dump – on the afternoon of Feb. 4. Two months after that, a Nevada game warden investigated and collected evidence from where the animal was seen.

Three months after that, in October 2017, an Idaho conservation officer requested a search warrant for Crown’s cellphone records. Then, in December, the Nevada and Idaho officers served the warrant at Crown’s home, and reviewed his cellphone but found no information relating to the dead lion.

The officers said Crown “became agitated and denied having any knowledge of killing a mountain lion in Nevada.” He allowed them to inspect the contents of his freezers.

One of the other men cited that day, however, told the officers he spotlighted the cat and Crown shot it. The animal was then dragged to Crown’s truck and removed, the witness said.

Court documents did not state whether the dead mountain lion was recovered as evidence.

Crown faces charges in Elko District Court of killing of a big game animal and possession of a big game animal. His bail was set at $7,500.