An $80,000 Per Year Job of the Future: EV Charging Station Technician

At least one industry of the future will produce middle-class jobs that don’t require a college degree

Techno-optimists tell us not to fear the age of robots and automation — that new jobs will replace those that are wiped out. Such talk has tended to ring hollow. What sort of jobs do the techno-optimists have in mind? Some folks have drawn up lists of possible “jobs of the future,” but are they to be believed?

Last week, I came across a genuinely new occupation: electric vehicle charging station technician. It’s a $39 per hour job, or $80,000 per year full-time, and requires just a week of training to know the basics, with no college necessary, according to Kameale Terry, co-founder and CEO of ChargerHelp, an EV charging station servicing company in Los Angeles. Terry’s company trains and employs such specialists.

If EVs go mainstream this decade, as a number of experts predict, tens of thousands of charging station technicians could be required, hard evidence that at least one industry of the future is going to produce well-paying, middle-class jobs that do not require an engineering degree. This future of EV and battery industry employment has been foreshadowed for a decade: In 2012, the year Tesla came out with the blockbuster, industry-proving Model S, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produced an outlook of future EV jobs: chemists, material scientists, and various types of engineers led the list, of course, but the BLS also foresaw electrical equipment assemblers, power-line installers, automotive service technicians, and mechanics. Not to be caught flat-footed, Los Angeles County went all out around the same time with a 90-page report describing the structure of the future industry and workforce.

Neither report anticipated the charging station technician, which may be a reason the charging industry is in a bit of a maintenance crisis. When something goes wrong at one of the country’s approximately 25,000 charging stations, an electrician is often summoned. But Terry told me that’s been a problematic solution for a number of reasons: Electricians are so backed up that it can take a week to get one to a location; they charge $125 to $175 per hour with a four-hour minimum; and, most important of all, they don’t really have the right expertise, since the issue is often the software, not the electrical system. “There isn’t a workforce that knows how to troubleshoot the stations,” Terry said.

A year ago, Terry and her partner, Evette Ellis, launched ChargerHelp, a South Central L.A.–based company that would service the growing number of EV charging stations and train technicians to carry out the work. But they hit an immediate roadblock when almost no one would hire their trainees because they lacked four years of experience, the milestone required for an electrician license. “It made no sense,” Terry said, since the technicians were not electricians.

Ellis began lobbying the U.S. Department of Labor to validate the technicians — to provide the profession with a so-called O*NET code, the federal government’s official designation of an occupation. With that, their training certifications would be recognized by employers. Last month, the O*NET code was granted.

So far, ChargeHelp has trained about 60 certified technicians. But the field is growing fast. Terry is raising a round of $1.5 million to expand into five more states: Colorado, Florida, New York, Texas, and Washington. Last year, the company serviced around 1,000 charging stations. This year, it’s looking to expand to around 5,000 stations.

ChargerHelp’s selling point is that it can have its technicians at a charging site within a day or, for a premium fee, within an hour. Diagnostic equipment does not yet exist for charging stations, so the technicians are trained to troubleshoot manually — they read error codes that the charging equipment spits out, then relay that information to a central office.

According to McKinsey, the United States alone will require from 5 million to 9 million EV chargers in 2025 and 11 million to 30 million by 2030. Terry’s technicians currently handle 250 to 300 charging points each, suggesting that 40,000 or more specialists could be required by 2030. The upside is that the profession is open to people who previously have lacked credentials to land middle-class incomes. “This is not rocket science,” Terry said.

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.

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