ST. LOUIS -- Electrical Workers Local 1 and the St. Louis chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association have launched the first electrical car training program in Missouri, and one of the few in America.
The only program of its kind locally, it's designed to train unionists in skills they need to install charging stations for the growing number of electric vehicles on the road. Local 1 and the St. Louis NECA chapter took the lead nationally by helping to develop a national curriculum for the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program.
The St. Louis training center (located at the union's headquarters at 2300 Hampton Ave.), is operated by The Electrical Connection, a Local 1-NECA partnership. It is currently the only training center in St. Louis that offers EVITP certification for installers of electric vehicle supply equipment, such as fixed EV charging stations.
The St. Louis training program is another example of the new high-paying jobs that clean energy projects-pushed by organized labor and the Obama administration as one of the ways to revitalize U.S. manufacturing-can create.
For more than 70 years, the training center supplied St. Louis and Eastern Missouri with the vast majority of its licensed electricians and communication technicians, training approximately 10,000 to date.
"It's our goal to keep Local 1 members in the forefront of technology," said Business Manager Greg Booth. "Training in the advanced fields of technology and communications ensures that union electricians can continue to outperform anyone.
"Some commercial installations can be more challenging depending on the facility and the distance to the power supply," Booth continued. "For example, parking decks will require the contractor to deal with load and power supply issues. Existing parking facilities were never constructed with a power capacity to support an increasing number of EV chargers. Many new construction projects are including the necessary infrastructure to support the chargers as the market expands."
"We were the birthplace of electrical apprenticeship training when newly mandated national apprenticeship standards were established in 1941 and have adapted to serve evolving energy and communication needs ever since," said Dennis Gralike, director of the training center. "So it's not surprising that we've taken on the task of delivering a reliable infrastructure to support powering our future mobility."
"For the EV market to be successful, there must be quality, licensed contractors and electricians installing the equipment supporting the vehicles," said Jim Curran, executive vice president of the Electrical Connection. "It is critical for the EV consumer experience if the market is to expand."
In April 2011, Jeff Holmes, an instructor at the IBEW/NECA Electrical Industry Training Center, became one of 56 instructors nationally to complete a "Master Train the Trainer" course for EVITP, which the Electrical Connection co-sponsored. Holmes and another training center instructor, Dr. Linda Little, were instrumental in developing the national EVITP curriculum. It was the culmination of a national effort to meet the growing demand for infrastructure to support the nation's goal of producing one million EVs by 2015.
To date, 18 IBEW/NECA electrical contractors completed EVITP training, alone with 75 IBEW members. Another 22 unionists will be trained next month.
"We're very pleased with the capacity we are building among our membership to do this work," said Douglas Martin, executive vice president of the St. Louis Chapter of the NECA.
Ed Finkelstein is publisher of The St. Louis Labor Tribune
Photo: Felix Kramer/St. Louis Labor Tribune, via PAI Photo Service