When Tesla announced it was to break ground on a much-anticipated Gigafactory in Reno, where it would develop a new class of batteries that could free consumers from fossil fuels, the headlines wrote themselves.  

“Reno, Nevada, may have just won one of the most coveted economic prizes in America,” declared the San Francisco Chronicle. 

“Tesla Motors’ $5 billion Gigafactory may be the best thing to happen to northern Nevada since the silver rush of the 1850s,” gushed a Bloomberg piece. 
Nevada has the smallest higher education system in the nation, with a correspondingly low rate of postsecondary enrollment. 

Historically, state leaders felt little urgency to confront the problem. An economy centered on gambling and quickie divorces put no pressure on public education institutions at any level to graduate students with skills beyond those needed to work in the gaming and hospitality industries. 
Now Washoe County Public Schools’ Signature Academies offers four-year high school programs with specific career focuses. Students who choose one of the themed courses of study can earn college credit and industry-approved job credentials in fields such as agriculture, engineering, information technology and health sciences.

What is CTE? Career and Technical Education (CTE) are courses and programs that focus on the skills and knowledge required for specific jobs or fields of work.
As the Gigafactory began to rise from the desert, Tesla founder Musk was vocal about whom he wanted working in it. A track record of “exceptional achievement” was his chief qualification.

"There's no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school," Musk — a college dropout himself — told the German publication Auto Bild.

"If somebody graduated from a great university, that may be an indication that they will be capable of great things, but it's not necessarily the case.”

One reason he’s optimistic about Washoe’s programs is that instead of focusing on job training per se, the partnership is capitalizing on hands-on experiences to motivate students to develop the traits and intellectual abilities that will ensure they leave high school ready for college or a skilled career. 
As part of its agreement with the state, Tesla agreed to spend $37.5 million on K-12 education.

As people started working in the Gigafactory, the company analyzed the performance evaluations of its most effective workers. What it found was that many had participated in robotics clubs as kids. 
Reno is awash in robots - Visitors to Tesla’s campus encounter self-driving vehicles, which stop to let them pass. One of the area's employers makes robots that make other robots. Students who learn robotics and other high-tech manufacturing skills in high school will have no problem finding a good job.
But as Tesla’s executives probed further into its high-performers’ experiences with the clubs, they found something else. The clubs' competitive aspect teaches students to solve problems on the fly.

They’re fun for kids of any age and draw a diverse array of participants, including girls. Students compete, but they work together to do so. 

Accordingly, one of the things Tesla has funded is a robotics coordinator for Washoe schools. Northern Nevada has made progress transitioning from service to production. As a community transitions from production to a knowledge-based economy, that’s crucial.
The University of Nevada, Reno's Team CERBERUS topped a stellar field of eight international robotics teams to win the DARPA Subterranean Challenge and $2 million in prize money.

The competition spanned three years and several locations with four competitions that tested the engineers’ abilities to develop a system of walking and flying robots equipped with multi-modal perception systems, navigation and mapping autonomy, and self-organized networked communications that enable robust and reliable navigation, exploration, mapping, and object search in complex, sensing-degraded, stringent, dynamic and rough underground settings.