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Broken and unreliable EV chargers become a business opportunity for LA's ChargerHelp

Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

At ChargerHelp, Ellis set about creating a certified training program for charger technicians, working closely with SAE International, the standards-setting organization for the motor vehicle industry. Training takes roughly six weeks before field deployment.

Beyond the technical material, Ellis emphasizes the importance of attitude. Graduating from a training program into a new job is a major step that not only affects the newly employed but future grads as well. “If you’re not giving it your all, you really are burning a huge bridge,” she says.

A field technician needn’t know software code to do the work. What’s needed is a basic understanding of how electricity works, how EV chargers work, how electric vehicles work, how to handle software programs on a computer or smartphone in concert with remote experts at a network operations center. Federal government certified safety training is an important part of the program, Ellis said.

The kind of job ChargerHelp trains for — combining familiarity with computer software, basic knowledge in electricity and electronics, and a reasonable degree of manual dexterity — will become increasingly common as software continues to infiltrate hardware in everyday life, from Ring doorbells to personal robots to apps on a car’s dashboard screen.

High school grads can do it; so can those who graduate from college but may be lacking skills that match what employers are looking for.

Heaven Holmes of Fresno graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills in psychology and criminal justice last year and was back home job hunting when her mother saw Terry being interviewed by local TV news. Her mom said “there’s an African American woman on TV hiring here.” Something about charger repair. Holmes applied, got trained, and became a technician at ChargerHelp.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m curious and I’m always going to want to gain more knowledge,” she said. Every day is a new challenge, she said.

She’s happy to be in an industry with a future and a chance to move up the ladder. “The world is changing, and these jobs aren’t as low profile as you’d think. People are excited when they see a charger that’s been broken down for months is working.”


EV charger field technicians earn $20 to $60 an hour, concentrated in the $35 to $40 range. Certified electricians make even more. So far, ChargerHelp has trained 1,000 workers and recently began a program to train the trainers for other companies and workforce development organizations.

ChargerHelp, of course, is far from the only company developing charger software and training workers to use it. Charging network companies such as Flo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America are expanding training programs of their own.

So are charger manufacturers, including ABM. “It’s important to build awareness around the trades in general across America,” said Mark Hawkinson, ABM’s president of technical solutions. “We’re seeing a depletion of skill sets on how to maintain critical infrastructure. Our schools don’t teach shop anymore. We need to get back to those basics.”

Even companies that have relied for decades on fossil fuel dispensation have been moving swiftly into electric vehicle charging, including gas pump installer and maintainer Owl Services. “We’ve seen an uptick in the call for technicians, particularly in the Los Angeles market,” said Owl vice president Dave Patrick. L.A. represents “the highest growth potential” for the company right now.

Marcus Glenn of Detroit was recently trained by ChargerHelp but is keeping his options open. He was employed at an automobile heating and air conditioning supplier when he signed up to learn about charger repair. He successfully finished the course but is sticking with his current job — for now. The auto industry is undergoing drastic change, and layoffs are constant threat. Glenn likes knowing he’s prepared for the future. “It’s nice to have some form of stability. I’ll be looking for those opportunities and see where this leads.”

He recommends the move to others. “If you’re curious about it, be a curious cat. Go find out. There’s a lot of ways to get into this industry. There is always going to be work.”

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