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A training program promised jobs working on EV chargers. The market hasn’t lived up

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

A training program out of Georgia was meant to move people from low-wage positions to green jobs of the future, namely electric vehicle charging technicians. But as Marlon Hyde from member station WABE and Atlanta reports, so far, the job market hasn't lived up to the hype.

MARLON HYDE, BYLINE: On a January afternoon at a Goodwill career center in suburban Atlanta, Quontavious Miles is learning to install EV chargers. He's a marine veteran who used to ride a forklift. Miles is wearing a navy blue maintenance uniform. In front of him are the tools he uses to connect some colorfully cased copper wires inside of a shiny metal box.

QUONTAVIOUS MILES: The last job was just what you say - it was a job. It was something to do to get paid. This feels like the beginning of a brand-new career field.

HYDE: He was excited, being one of the first people getting this training to work on electric vehicle chargers. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are more than 64,000 public charging ports in the U.S. The White House is spending billions to add more. And Goodwill's program hopes to add more skilled workers like Miles who can maintain them. He was just two weeks out from graduating.

Feel like if they sent you out to the field, you could handle it?

MILES: Yeah.

HYDE: Goodwill whittled down hundreds of applicants for the nearly 40 spots in the program.

MILES: They hope to leave us where we have job placement where by the time we're done - like, right now, we're practicing mock interviews.

DONNA LEVEL: It feels like family. I feel like I'm in a class with 14 brothers.

HYDE: This is Donna Level. She was the only woman in the first group of 15.

SUMMERS: I came here to the center with - again, with no expectation. I didn't know what they had to offer. But when I went through the list of classes and actually did further research, you know, I became interested in this in particular.

HYDE: The goal of the first group was for 80% of them to get a job by the end of April says Jenny Taylor. She's the vice president of career services for Goodwill of North Georgia. When we spoke in mid-April, she was still optimistic.

JENNY TAYLOR: I will begin to be concerned if we don't have them employed by May 23, which is that 90-day benchmark.

HYDE: But at the end of April, Tesla announced it was laying off parts of its EV charging network and plans to slow down new charger station installations.

RICH MOORE: You're seeing is you're seeing a lot of focus on the current network, where there's been a ton of dollars deployed.

HYDE: This is Rich Moore, senior vice president of ChargePoint, which also makes EV chargers. He says companies are now focusing on expanding the use of existing stations rather than building new ones.

MOORE: It's interesting when you look at workforce. This notion that there is a job gap just in EV charging and repair is probably not that accurate.

HYDE: Moore says the charging network is growing but not fast enough, and the new jobs are not here yet. Goodwill says that so far, 13 of the almost 40 participants, including Donna Level, have gotten jobs in clean energy. Quontavious Miles is one of the ones still waiting.

MILES: It's just the way things panned out. You know, it kind of make you feel like - was it all worth it?

HYDE: Goodwill says it learned a lot from the pilot and will continue working to get everyone employed. Meanwhile, Miles says the program had good intentions, and he is hopeful. But for now...

MILES: It took away the idea of - you know what? - I'm not working for anybody less than maybe Tesla or ChargePoint and making $30 an hour, you know? It's just now, it's just - you know what? - it's kind of survival mode at this point.

HYDE: But if the door ever opens up for an EV charging job, he says he is ready to walk through it. For NPR News, I'm Marlon Hyde in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marlon Hyde
Marlon, VPR News Fellow, graduated from Saint Michael’s College in 2021 with a degree in media studies, journalism and digital arts. Originally from Queens, New York, he comes from a family of storytellers
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