When it comes to the number of EVs and the number of charging stations, it’s a weird relationship. Building more charging stations helps more EVs sell, because the EVs become more useful. But, people don’t want to build charging stations if there won’t be customers. There are ways around this issue, with government subsidies, forward-looking open-minded businesses trying to be first to market, and pressure from EV advocates all playing a role.
But, people seem to have forgotten about what happens after the stations get put in. While the most notable EV charging initiative after the Dieselgate scandal was Electrify America, there are still EV charging stations being put in on other networks using funds from the settlement. But, a great number of them are starting to malfunction, with some going completely dead while many more have annoying malfunctions and slow charging.
A recent article at Forbes covers some of the causes behind malfunctioning chargers. While available technicians is a factor, Electrify America’s early stations turned out to not be able to cope with the load as more and more people used them. Worse, it’s hard to get parts for these older stations, leading to extended outages that can eventually cripple a charging site. Newer Electrify America stations are doing a lot better at this, fortunately, so there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for the company.
In other words, the availability of people to fix the problems isn’t the industry’s bottleneck right now, but it’s not always going to be that way. As stations get replaced with better ones (or at least better parts that don’t fail so fast), and as replacement parts become more plentiful, we’ll eventually reach the point where technicians are the bottleneck.
So, if you’re a young person trying to decide what field to go into, or someone with more life experience looking for a new career, becoming a charging station technician is something you’ll probably want to look into.
In this article, I’m going to talk about what I found when looking at what it takes to go out, be a hero to EV drivers, and fix broken EV charging stations.
It’s A Relatively New Field
I wish I could tell you that it’s as simple as calling the local trade school and community college to get into a program, but EV charging isn’t a well-established trade like many others, so there are multiple ways into the field. But, just about all of the paths in require one thing: that you be a licensed electrician.
Getting to that point isn’t easy or fast, though, so the shortage isn’t going to go away very quickly. After finishing high school or its equivalent (GED, etc), a student then needs to go to trade school for up to two years. After trade school, a person with electrical training needs to go into an apprenticeship program (paid, fortunately) working under a licensed electrician. After the apprenticeship, it’s possible to become a full (journeyman) electrician.
But, that’s just step one. After becoming an electrician, a person who wants to install or fix EV charging stations will need to complete another educational program, and these come in various forms. ChargePoint offers its own online courses for EV charging station installation and maintenance. Many companies already doing charging station work have their own in-house training programs. There’s also the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP), where an electrician can become certified to work on EV charging stations.
When it comes to job security, the good news about all this is that there are multiple paths in and out of being an EV specialist that don’t kill your ability to pay the bills. An electrician who works on charging stations could go into another electrical specialty without having to start completely over from high school again, and the other cleantech things happening mean that electricians with all sorts of different experience are going to be needed in the coming decades more than ever. For example, people will be needed to wire up solar, battery storage, heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, home and workplace charging (Level 2), and many other things.
We Need More People Than Ever To Start This ASAP
Here’s the thing: we’re already short on EV charging installers and technicians, and the growth of EV charging is only going to grow in the next couple of years. So, if you were to jump into becoming an electrician today, the industry is only going to be further behind by the time you get licensed. Unless something drastic happens to kill EVs (it won’t), there’s going to be no shortage of work. Pay will probably go way up to attract new recruits.
But, we can’t wait until the shortage gets super bad before people get started, because it’s a years-long process to go from someone reading an article to someone ready to get to work. There will be many people try to jump in when it gets bad to make a buck, but by then, we could be headed for a glut of technicians and electricians who chase the shortage later.
In other words, getting in before that glut comes later, and being an established, reputable industry player, is essential.
The Rest Of Us Need To Support This Trade More
I know it’s becoming less common, but everyone used to want their kids to grow up to become “doctors and lawyers and such.” But, the highest-paying fields aren’t for everybody. Alternatively, there are people who would rather see their kids get a “safe” cubicle job than go into the trades, even if those jobs pay less and require more expensive education. In other words, there are plenty of parents who direct their kids away from the trades.
The truth is, though, that for the right person the trades are pretty good. The money isn’t bad at all, the working conditions aren’t dangerous in most cases, and it doesn’t mean the person doing it is “low class.” So, there’s no real reason for a good parent to discourage it. If your kid wants to go into the trades, support them and encourage them to do their best.
Image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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