BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — Central Texas’ new Tesla Gigafactory wants to tap into the future of local talent, and they’re looking at Bastrop Independent School District.

The electric carmaker interviewed about 70 high school seniors Thursday who have been recruited for the past three weeks.

Tesla said they have at least 20 positions available for them as production associates, if not more, according to BISD’s associate superintendent Kristi Lee.

Luis Mata from Cedar Creek High School is hoping to score a gig at the Gigafactory. He’s picked out a specific shirt for the interview, hoping it shows character, he said.

“I feel anxious and nervous, but also excited to have another door open for me,” he said.

He also has his interview answers ready to go.

“Ever since I was a little kid I loved messing with like mechanical stuff and electrical, like, clocks, windup toys, and I always saw myself being a robotic engineer someday,” said Mata, who’s also part of his high school robotics team.

According to Tesla’s website, there are still hundreds of open job positions for Giga Texas.

Once hired, Tesla will pay for graduating BISD seniors to attend Austin Community College for seven weeks of training, along with $17 per hour while in classes, Lee said. They would start those classes next month.

Mata said he chose this route over a traditional four-year college path — he’d gotten accepted into Texas A&M University.

“I’d like to have the hands-on experience of being in robotics, rather than just sitting on the desk for four years waiting for the opportunity while the opportunity is right here,” he said.

Lee said once they complete their ACC certification, students will earn $18.50 as full-time Tesla employees.

The high school pipeline to Tesla is part of Gigafactory Texas’ program called the Manufacturing Development Program, according to the informational flyer.

There are some prerequisites for the program, including that students must be 18 by Sept. 1 of their application year, and on track for a spring high school graduation.

Amanda Brantley, Bastrop ISD’s director of college, career, and military readiness said over 70% of their students are from a low socio-economic background, and for some, going to college isn’t always possible and planning for their future isn’t always easy, so opportunities like this are very important.

“It’s not just about the position being open, it’s that they’re able to get training through ACC at no cost to them, and really get their foot in the door. And for some of our students, that wouldn’t be possible,” Brantley said.

  • Dozens of high school seniors at Bastrop Independent School District are getting ready for interviews today, hoping to be hired by Tesla.  (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)
  • Dozens of high school seniors at Bastrop Independent School District are getting ready for interviews today, hoping to be hired by Tesla.  (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)
  • Dozens of high school seniors at Bastrop Independent School District are getting ready for interviews today, hoping to be hired by Tesla.  (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

It’s an opportunity in a county where most people don’t pursue higher education as compared to their neighbors along I-35.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows fewer than a quarter of people in Bastrop County have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

That’s compared to almost 40% in Hays County and Williamson County who have completed higher education. In Travis County, it’s over 50%.

Brantley said although BISD has a 97% high school graduation rate, this partnership with Tesla will help with retention.

“I absolutely think it gives students an incentive to stay and persist through high school graduation,” she said.

Mata said he still plans to pursue further education, and is on his way to get an associate’s degree in robotics at Texas State Technical College.

“I just hope to, you know, fulfill my little self dream of being a robotic engineer,” he said.

He and his classmates are hoping a life-changing career opportunity begins at the Performing Arts Center on Thursday, where BISD staff helped students apply for the job online, and prepared them by conducting practice interviews on-site before students met with Tesla recruiters.

Tesla will choose which students move forward, and they will get a “conditional offer letter and join a variety of celebratory events such as signing days and orientations,” according to a flyer for the program distributed to BISD students.

Brantley said students should find out within two weeks.

She also said they’re working with Tesla on a P-TECH program set to launch in the fall. Pathways in Technology Early College High School would put students on a path to more job opportunities in manufacturing and technology.

“And what that will do for students is it definitely gives them a foot in the door. At Tesla, hopefully even at a higher skill level than what the students going through this program will have. But it also gives them opportunities across the Austin in Texas area,” Brantley said.

Del Valle ISD is also getting ready to launch a P-TECH program with Tesla as a partner, and also has a hiring partnership with the car manufacturer.