Where are the EV technicians?

Where are the EV technicians?

Hey, EVs need maintenance and repairs too. But, working on an EV shouldn’t be done by just anyone – it takes a very particular set of skills (perhaps even skills acquired over a very long career). These vehicles aren’t your grandfather’s, working via internal combustion engines, and it takes a skilled technician to know how to safely maintain these relatively new components.

This poses a problem. Today’s job market is already facing a general worker shortage. A layer below that lies the technician shortage that’s lasted for decades. Drill down a little deeper and you encounter the EV technician shortage. These EV technicians today are quite rare, and typically expect to be paid a premium for their services.

So, where does this leave us? Is there an answer to finding more EV shop help? To find out, I invited Nadine Battah, multimedia senior editor for Tomorrow’s Technician, onto the show to talk topics like:

  • Are instructors pushing EVs onto technicians?
  • Are today’s students interested in working on EVs?
  • Why would a tech want to be trained to work on EVs?
  • Where should a tech seek out training for EVs if they’re interested?
  • What are some of the barriers to entry for being a technician qualified to work on EVs?
  • Should consumers be prepared to pay more for EV maintenance?
  • And more!

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Here’s a transcript of the show:

David Sickels: Hi, and welcome back to The Amped EV Podcast. My name is David Sickles. I am the editor for The Buzz.

Nadine Battah: Hello, and I am Nadine Battah. I am the multimedia senior editor for Tomorrow’s Technician. What is up David?

David Sickels: Nadine. It’s great to have you on the show today.

Nadine Battah: Thank you for having me. I am Amped to be here. I am. I have to say it, sorry.

David Sickels: Oh no, no apology necessary. I too am Amped that you are here.

Nadine Battah: Thank you for having me.

David Sickels: You’re replacing Jason today.

Nadine Battah: Yes.

David Sickels: He’s off. I don’t know what he’s doing.

Nadine Battah: Sorry, but not sorry, Jason. I am super excited to be here today and I think we’re going to have a great discussion.

David Sickels: And the reason you’re here is because you are kind of the… How should I put it? Like you are the Babcox technician pro.

Nadine Battah: Yes. I deal mainly with a lot of these up-and-coming technicians truly. So like the students and their instructors as well. So it’s been a fantastic experience learning about their experiences and what they’re going through right now, especially with how the industry’s doing.

David Sickels: And when I think of technicians, so the first thing that comes to mind is the technician shortage that has been around since before I was born.

Nadine Battah: Yes, over several decades, absolutely. And it’s still a problem right now, David, and it’s still definitely a huge topic of discussion.

David Sickels: Well, I mean, especially today, you’ve got just a worker shortage in general, and then you’ve got a technician shortage. And then when it comes to EVs, I can’t imagine what the shortage looks like there. What are there like four technicians on the planet?

Nadine Battah: I can’t imagine. And, of course, it comes down to how crazy it is to work on these vehicles, how scary it can be as well. And there are certifications involved just with any other vehicle, but it’s a little bit more intense. So I feel like that makes it a little bit more scarier. And has these younger people more so a little bit more hesitant maybe to dive right into the world of EVs.

David Sickels: I mean, I’m hesitant just to talk about EVs so I can’t imagine digging actually into that.

Nadine Battah: There’s a lot of new stuff, so I completely get it, but there’s a need for it. There’s a market for this. So I’m glad that we’re able to have these conversations and see what we can do to potentially help to get more people involved.

David Sickels: So before we even just start talking about EV technicians, let’s just start here. Why is there a technician shortage? Can you answer this in one sentence for us? Is this possible? Is it money?

Nadine Battah: It’s not even just about the money, David, although money is definitely a huge contributor. I mean, it’s money, it’s the cost of school as well. And it kind of comes down to training, not having enough training opportunities in the beginning to really understand the EVs and how they work and how you need to be able to take care of yourself to make sure you don’t get hurt doing so. So I think just the fact that it’s so new is scary to a lot of people.

David Sickels: Yeah. It’s new and scary. Did COVID have anything to do with slowing down the opportunities here?

Nadine Battah: I think so, for sure. And I think it definitely doesn’t make it easier with the fact that there’s other jobs out there. Whether it be in fast food or retail that are paying amazing amounts now to bring people in where the wages for these technicians are not looking too good, David. So when you have these opportunities say flipping burgers or whatever, working as a line cook at $20 an hour, less strenuous things well, compare it to how much strenuous labor you’re going to put into being a technician. It makes it hard for these people to really look at the two different options that are being put forth in front of them and say okay, well, this would be the career choice for me.

David Sickels: Sure. Especially when there’s all that schooling involved like you said and the big cost for that. And when it comes to EVs, obviously we know these systems that they’re working on, I mean, if you cut the wrong wire, you could be dead. A lot less likely to happen when you are working in fast food or whatever it might be.

Nadine Battah: Yeah. So definitely that helps out a lot for sure.

David Sickels: So let me ask you this, you talked about certifications earlier. Is there anything that technicians need to be making sure that they are getting, that they’re going to school for, any line that they need to be following if they want to work on EVs as opposed to internal combustion engine?

Nadine Battah: You know, well, I can’t really necessarily speak on certifications. I’m unsure myself, David. Maybe you have a better idea than myself, but I think the biggest thing is training. And I think that makes all the difference. It’s one thing that I hear from instructors, it’s a hit or miss. I have some instructors that get a lot of support from dealerships, local dealerships, where they’ll send out brand new EVs to the school to have the students be able to work on that.

So just get an idea of what they look like. Maybe they’re not popping the hood essentially, but just get an idea of what they’re looking at, the technology and the interior, just to get a better idea. I think that makes the biggest difference essentially. But definitely certifications are the number one thing. Can you speak a little bit on that and what they may need?

David Sickels: No, I can’t. So I’ve spoken with people who teach classes right on this kind of thing, certification wise, it’s so new. I feel like that there are certain routes you can go, but specifically, I can’t speak to that.

Nadine Battah: Because I know with ASE, there’s ASE certifications and that’s a very well known thing. There’s got to be something for this EV world essentially that makes it easier and well known for these technicians to know what exactly they need to get certified in to be able to work on these things. So I feel like that would make all but more the difference just to have a large platform like ASE to be like, hey, these are the certifications that entry-level technicians will need to work on EVs. And if you get these first five, then you can work towards the next five and get the 10. So I think just having a structure like that would definitely be beneficial. Maybe we would start seeing more technicians a little bit more interested to dive into this world.

David Sickels: Well, that’s interesting that you point that out because I’ve got a note here about UTI, Universal Technical Institute. They partnered with NASCAR Technical Institute to roll out new curriculum for what they called its Ford fact, Ford accelerated credential training program. And it’s all about working on electric vehicles. It’s actually really cool. So it’s all about they say high voltage systems, hybrid vehicle components and operation battery electric vehicle components and operation, and an introduction to high voltage battery service, as well as a Ford instructor led class on hybrid and electric vehicle operation and diagnosis. And the coolest part is that they incorporate virtual reality goggles.

Nadine Battah: That is really cool. And you know what? They obviously sound like they’ve taken a strong lead into this and that’s amazing. That’s exactly what we need. We need more universities, more training programs or facilities essentially to pick up on stuff like this because programs like that will work. And that’s what these students want. They’re looking for training, whether it be face-to-face or online, I can tell you they don’t care if they’re able to do both. They want to do both, and they’re eager to learn. Give them the opportunities and they’re eager to learn and understand more about it, for sure.

David Sickels: I’m actually really glad you said that because that was going to be my next question. When you’re talking with these students, are they showing particular interest in EVs? Is this where they want to be? Or do they want to be turning the wrenches looking at the engine? Where do they want to be?

Nadine Battah: David, we are talking about the generation that grew up with technology, right? So they are of course, extremely interested in being a part of this and learning what is essentially going to take over pretty much the whole world, right? We see in the news frequently with legislators being like by 2035, we want to be at least 50% EV, automated vehicles only. So I think stuff like that really drives them, encourages them, seeing that they can be heroes essentially in the industry, being able to work on these things that are essentially going to take over, everywhere you look left and right, you’ll start to see these EVs. So there’s definitely a large interest and they just need more help. They need help from the dealerships, or they need help from these manufacturers that can say, hey, we’re building a website to show such and such. How to manage this technology or how to work on this. I think those types of things will definitely make a larger difference. And we’ll start to see people actually implementing this interest. And that’s what we need.

David Sickels: Now that’s cool. Especially when you start talking about that news that I had mentioned before with NASCAR and Ford, I feel like Ford is such a big name, where obviously, they are going just bonkers with EVs right now. And then you get NASCAR involved, which is not something you would normally associate with electric vehicles and students seeing these types of partnerships that might push their interest that way.

Nadine Battah: It definitely does drive their interest. I can say a lot of my students that I speak with are really interested in the power performance side of things. So I think having those connections will definitely keep more people interested and be like, wow, okay, so this is pretty cool. You know, like we might even see EVs in NASCAR one day, right? You to think about that stuff, it gets them exciting. You know, just the open possibilities that the world of EVs is exciting to them. And they want to be a part of it. They want to be, if not like the leaders, essentially that take over this huge shift that we’re about to see here within the next decade.

David Sickels: Let me ask you this: Is it an issue if too many technicians want to go the EV route and then there just aren’t enough working on the internal combustion engine? Is that a problem that people are talking about? Is this a problem at all?

Nadine Battah: Honestly, I don’t even think it’s going to be a problem. I feel like we have way too, not way too many, we have plenty of service technicians that can work on typical cars. I feel like we just don’t have enough EV technicians. I feel like that’s the true problem. I think shop owners should definitely consider looking into having EV technicians in their shop. I don’t think it’s something that they should brush off necessarily because your competitors may have those EV technicians. And when you have competitors taking away those customers from you, you’re losing out because you don’t have that opportunity. So it’s very important for these shop owners to dig that into consideration as well. If you don’t have those EV technicians, I guarantee you the competitor next door definitely does. And you don’t want to lose out to the competitors next door. Nobody does. Right? David?

David Sickels: Okay. Okay. I think you’re right. But what if I live in Nebraska, there’s no EVs, there’s one EV that rolls down the street. Some rice guy. We don’t need that guy around. No, of course, we do.

Nadine Battah: Right. We need that guy.

David Sickels: Do I need to have an EV technician on staff if I live somewhere where I own a shop and there just aren’t that many EVs around?

Nadine Battah: You know, David, I really don’t know. I think it’ll depend on the shop and if they can afford it. If they can afford to have a technician, because that’s another thing. I would assume so that these EV technicians are going to be paid at a higher level because they are working with higher voltages. So there’s a whole different type of scope of work essentially. So I feel like that definitely makes it a little bit more scary. So I think, do you necessarily need to have one if you are living in a remote situation? Figure out your situation, make it case by case. I don’t know. I think I’d leave it down to the shop owners for sure.

David Sickels: That’s probably the best.

Nadine Battah: Yeah, let’s leave it up to them David.

David Sickels: Technicians, you had mentioned before, obviously they are mostly of this generation that’s growing up with this new age technology for a better term.

Nadine Battah: They love it. Have you seen TikTok, David?

David Sickels: I have heard of it. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been working on my dance moves. Is there a particular reason that they may or may not be attracted to working on EVs beyond just the technology component? I mean, is it more dangerous?

Nadine Battah: Oh, yeah. I think people are scared for their lives, David. If they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re scared for their lives. And can we really blame them? You’re working with such high voltages. I feel like I personally would never be able to commit to something like that. But when we talk about certifications, if we get these technicians at an early start, if we get them early into these and we get them trained and we give them plenty of opportunities to get certified, I feel like that takes away that scare. But I think definitely just the fact that how scary it is, maybe how new it is as well, makes it just a little bit more scary for them. I don’t think they’re necessarily waiting on a veteran tech to hold their hand throughout the process. I think it’s just so new, they need to know that they’re going to be safe while they’re working on these processes.

David Sickels: Yeah. Most definitely. And shops that are interested in having EVs come in. It is best practice I should say, to have a specified bay for those EVs to come through.

Nadine Battah: 1,000%.

David Sickels: There are special tools there and special signage that you’re putting up when you’re working to help mitigate those danger concerns.

Nadine Battah: Yes. Plenty of signs. I mean, I would need a sign on every corner to make sure that I didn’t even get near that area because it really is scary to think about, and I commend everyone that’s taken a part of this and just wants to be involved. Because it seems to be the inevitable David. I don’t think we really have any choice.

David Sickels: Sure.

Nadine Battah: Do you truly believe that we’re going to have this huge EV takeover or do you think that we’re still going to have these regular cars every single day? What are your thoughts on that?

David Sickels: Well, I would answer that in two parts. I would say, the EV takeover is kind of already happening. You’re seeing all the biggest manufacturers in the world announcing that they’re going to have X electric models by 2030, 2040. And a lot of them are saying, we’re just going all electric by X year or whatever. So it’s happening, it is going on now. That being said, though, I mean last year I don’t have the number off the top of my head, but I think it’s something like 98% of all vehicles sold were still internal combustion engine. These vehicles aren’t going anywhere and it’s very important in my eyes to be ready for both, to have both in mind. Especially during this transition where there’s so much unknown about EVs, especially from consumers, EVs are confusing.

Nadine Battah: Yeah, they are.

David Sickels: A lot of people aren’t ready to jump into that yet.

Nadine Battah: Definitely. I can speak for myself. I just got a new car myself. And it was a discussion of topic with gas prices being astronomical these days, astronomical. Yeah, not happy with these gas prices. I mean, what is going on? But EVs were definitely a topic of discussion, but I found myself being like, I don’t know if I can handle all of that.

David Sickels: Sure. There’s a lot to learn.

Nadine Battah: And you would have to really dive-deep into just for me personally research. I would need to research and understand what’s the difference between each one? Are there differences between the batteries? Stuff like that.

David Sickels: Oh gosh. And there is. That’s the thing.

Nadine Battah: Right. So it’s like, I don’t even think people consider that stuff. So for me, definitely I was just like I don’t know. So I can see where there is that hesitancy there. So for sure, I think that’ll be a factor in which we do see that huge shift of no more regular cars, here’s EVs. I think there’s definitely still going to be a strong market for a typical vehicle.

David Sickels: Yeah, no question. When you bought your new car and you were considering possibly looking into EVs.

Nadine Battah: Yes.

David Sickels: Did you think at all about maintenance? Did you think if I get this EV, maintenance is going to be less expensive, more expensive?

Nadine Battah: Yes.

David Sickels: What were your thoughts on that?

Nadine Battah: Oh, 1,000%. I was thinking maintenance for sure. And I mean, I am on TikTok. Sorry, David. I am on TikTok.

David Sickels: I’m not anti-TikTok.

Nadine Battah: All right. I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure. I am on TikTok and I see frequently people talking about their Tesla breaking down and then it being in the shop for several months just for a simple repair or just a software update can take lengths at a time. So seeing those things definitely have me being like, I don’t think I would be able to handle that because without my car, I think we’re so used to dropping our car at the dealership maybe even waiting in the waiting room, having a donut or two in the waiting room. Right?

David Sickels: That’s the best part really.

Nadine Battah: Right. But then having your car within the next hour. I don’t think we’re used to just dropping off your car and not having a car for weeks. Sure, a loaner is nice, but I want my car. I want my car, my daily driver to be my daily driver. So when I’m thinking maintenance, I want it to be same-day maintenance.

David Sickels: Yeah.

Nadine Battah: So I don’t know necessarily with EVs, if we’re going to get that same type of beat that we get with typical car today. Can you speak a little bit on that? Do you know, does it take longer to service these cars?

David Sickels: Honestly, it is case by case.

Totally case by case. And it’s also model by model. Oh, I mean, when you talk Tesla’s-

Nadine Battah: That makes it so tricky. Right?

David Sickels: It does. It does. I mean, Tesla barn on the market leader in EV sales, but they have their own strict maintenance programs. You need to take it to the Tesla dealership to have that repaired properly. And you’re not necessarily seeing that level of detailed scrutiny by a lot of these other Ford or a GM or a Volkswagen necessarily. So it really does matter case by case, but a question I have for you on that topic: Technicians who are repairing EVs, you’d mentioned before that maybe they get paid a little bit more for doing all those extra things that they need to do. Is that cost going to be then passed on to the consumer?

Nadine Battah: I think definitely consumers should start worrying about that. I think for sure. I think if we’re going to be paying our technicians more, you’re going to start seeing those prices go up a little bit as well. And it makes the most sense to me. I mean, we got to have the money to pay them and I think so. I think definitely have that in the back of your head that if you do get an EV you probably will be paying a little bit more just because these technicians are being paid more. So your service quote definitely at the end of the day will probably be a little bit more.

David Sickels: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Well, at least the technician’s getting a little back there.

Nadine Battah: The technicians needs a little bit of cheddar as well. You know, they’re keeping us on the roads, David. So I feel like they definitely deserve what they’re putting in. It’s a very censorious job to have. I think it’s funny, one of my instructors compared it to being a doctor and I was like, you know what? I get that. You’re repairing things. You’re opening up and looking into the problems deeper and how can you solve? And I was like, absolutely. Truly you guys really are like doctors. You’re out here fixing things so that we can get back up and running. So I don’t think it’s up for discussion at all. They do definitely deserve more and it’s a tricky job, but yeah, you will start to see that this will tumble its way into your service quotes, unfortunately.

David Sickels: I mean, that’s what you get for being ahead of the game.

Nadine Battah: Being a part of the EV world.

David Sickels: Exactly. Exactly. So in your experience, are technician instructors pushing technicians toward working on EVs, is this a common thing?

Nadine Battah: 1,000%. I think the instructors see the potential that these students bring, like I had mentioned earlier, they grew up with technology. So it’s very easy for them to pick these things up and just look at it and just be like, okay, if we have the opportunities to work and train on these electric vehicles, absolutely they’re able to, and they want to execute on this. For sure. So I think the instructor is just the fact that they’re also so willing to work and reach out to local dealerships to get those cars and opportunities for their students is a huge, huge deal.

David Sickels: Yeah. Oh, that’s enormous.

Nadine Battah: Yeah.

David Sickels: I mean, it’s a big deal for me to know that I can go down the street and test out an electric vehicle as a consumer. I’m not working on electric vehicles. I should make that very clear.

Nadine Battah: Thank God.

David Sickels: I should not be trusted. It’s valid.

Nadine Battah: I want you here. I want you here. I want you living.

David Sickels: Very valid. I’m not working on electric vehicles. But it’s nice to have the opportunities to be around these vehicles and explore them as needed. And the fact that these dealerships are willing to do that is-

Nadine Battah: It’s a huge deal. When I heard that I was blown away. This was probably back in January and I had spoken to an instructor I believe in Connecticut. And she had a dealership drop off a 2022 brand new… I can’t remember the manufacturer, what brand it was, but like, it was 2022 brand new car. They just dropped it off to the school and the students were working on it and I was just blown away.

David Sickels: That’s awesome.

Nadine Battah: Blown away. I think those opportunities make all the difference and will really, really push these students to dive deep and just be really excited to be a part of this.

David Sickels: So barriers to entry here, obviously, the danger of working on an EV is one of them. Is there anything else that comes to mind? Is there a reason that a technician would say, no, thanks?

Nadine Battah: I feel like maybe schooling. I think if school, again, the certifications, if that costs a lot, that’ll be an issue for sure that they think about as well as tools. I think you’re going to start using I would assume more electric tools as well to diagnose whatever you’re working with. So I feel like the tools.

David Sickels: Insulated tools.

Nadine Battah: Yeah. Those are very expensive already. So I think that just would definitely be a contributing factor to them being a little bit more hesitant. And like we said, if they’re not paying the cheddar, the big bucks, I don’t know, David, I don’t know. So I feel like those three things are definitely the biggest topics, money, the cost of school, and the cost of how much it takes to be certified. And just the fact that they’re not getting paid enough to be those technicians.

David Sickels: For sure. All about that cheddar.

Nadine Battah: All about that cheddar. I know. Listen, you can’t blame them.

David Sickels: You truly cannot. And I think that’s where government incentives, things like that can come in where if there’s some backing to getting these technicians trained for these classes, if there’s some kickback that they’re getting for that to make these classes a little bit cheaper, open that opportunity up a little bit. That’s going to be really important.

Nadine Battah: Absolutely.

David Sickels:Anything else from you Nadine?

Nadine Battah: That was it for me, David, I had a lot of fun.

David Sickels: This was super fun.

Nadine Battah: Wasn’t it?

David Sickels: Yeah. We’ll have to kick Jason out more often.

Nadine Battah: Yeah. Sorry, Jason, if you’re watching, but I think I killed that.

David Sickels: I would say so. I would say so. No offense to Jason.

Nadine Battah: No offense. Jason, we love you. He does a fantastic job. Both of you guys do. So this was really exciting for me to come join in and I hope there’re other opportunities in the future. Please?

David Sickels: We’ll make it happen. Thanks for watching The Amped EV Podcast. We’ll catch you next time.

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