A June 9 announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation recommended the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program as the preferred national certification standard for workers installing EV charging equipment. The announcement coincided with a DOT symposium at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, where attendees and passersby couldn’t miss Chicago Local 134’s Illinois Renewable Energy Fund education and recruitment tractor-trailer parked outside.

The task of building a national network of electric vehicle charging stations could soon fall primarily to IBEW members, thanks to a June 9 announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation that recommends the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program as the preferred national certification standard for training the workers who will install $5 billion of EV charging equipment.

On the day of the announcement and symposium, Local 134 Business Representative Robert Hattier, top left, executive director of the Illinois Renewable Energy Fund, and Local 134 business representative and fund trainer Joe Kilcoyne, bottom right, were on hand to give tours of the fund’s education and recruitment tractor-trailer and to answer questions.

“We helped create the EVITP more than 10 years ago and it’s been our gold-standard EV training and certification program ever since,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “We’ve consistently touted our highly skilled, highly trained workforce as leaders in installing and maintaining EV charging infrastructure, and we’re very pleased that the DOT is putting its faith not just in the program, but also in the skills that make our electricians the best qualified men and women to help build a quality and reliable national charging network.”

The non-profit EVITP was developed in collaboration with industry partners and stakeholders across the automotive, utility and manufacturing sectors, alongside the IBEW, the National Electrical Contractors Association and educational institutions.

The Electrical Training Alliance, which oversees and develops curricula for the IBEW’s joint apprenticeship training centers, estimates that more than half of the IBEW’s roughly 270 inside wiremen JATCs in the U.S. are actively enrolling students for electric vehicle charging system training programs.

“The rapid adoption of electric vehicles hinges on the safe, orderly build-out of charging infrastructure,” Stephenson said. “Proposing the EVITP as the required certification, something that the IBEW already offers, is a huge win for our members.”

President Joe Biden has long promised that, under his administration and its signature $1 trillion infrastructure law, the $5 billion, 500,000-station national charging network would be built by IBEW members.

Federal agencies like the Department of Transportation have the authority to create rules that will help them implement laws like the infrastructure law, and guidance the agency released earlier this year strongly encouraged jurisdictions to consider using the EVITP when applying for a share of the funding. The DOT’s Federal Highway Administration formalized that recommendation when it specified the EVITP within FHWA’s proposed federal rules governing the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program.

As written, the rule, under Section 680.106(j) of the Federal Register, requires journeymen wiremen who install, maintain and operate EV service equipment be certified through the EVITP. It also mandates, for projects where more than one electrician is needed, that at least one be an apprentice in a registered electrical apprenticeship program.

The FHWA admits that jurisdictions can meet the requirement through another appropriate registered apprenticeship program, but states that the EVITP would be the preferred one. Electricians must be licensed or certified by the states where they live to be eligible for the EVITP, and if their states do not license or certify, then they must prove that they’ve had at least 8,000 hours of hands-on electrical construction experience — similar to what an IBEW journeyman wireman already brings to the table.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there are already about 43,000 charging stations installed across the country. NEVI aims to add 500,000 more by 2030, in convenient locations no more than 50 miles from each other and near rest areas and off-ramps and rest areas along designated “Alternative Fuel Corridors.” As many as 18 million EVs could be in use by then.

Stephenson urged business managers to work on getting members registered for EVITP certification as soon as possible, to meet the demand both from the federal government as well as from the private sector. The growing need for EV charging stations also creates major opportunities for the IBEW to organize nonunion electricians into the brotherhood, he said.

“With the right federal standards in place,” he said, “our government can ensure that EV charging stations are installed to high-quality standards, sparing costly and time-consuming repairs down the road while creating good, union jobs. All of this is a huge step in the right direction.”

The Federal Register accepted public comments on the rule through August 22. The rule will go into effect 30 days after it’s finalized.