Canada is not ready for the coming electric vehicle revolution. Here’s what we need to do

Considering a career change? Canada will soon need many more skilled technicians and tradespeople to usher in a new era of transportation.

We are in the midst of an energy revolution. By 2030, the International Energy Agency expects there will be 145 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road globally. But where are the charging stations needed to power them, or the skilled workers to service them? Currently, Canada does not have the infrastructure required to sustain the projected influx.

The EV market here is one of opportunity and potential. Canada is mandating the sale of EVs, requiring all cars sold after 2035 to be fully electric. Last year, Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, said what many of us in the industry were thinking: the success of this transition requires a robust and well-planned network of charging stations.

In May, Toronto city hall announced the installation of 32 additional chargers by year end. But as Kingston pointed out, we need millions of new stations to keep pace with the market. The installation of this massive network will also demand hundreds or thousands of skilled technicians and tradespeople — workers we’ll continue to need to service and maintain charging stations.

At present, we simply do not have the physical or human infrastructure to support Canada’s electric revolution. Clean Energy Canada predicts 184,000 people will be employed in the EV industry by 2030, a “26-fold increase over 2020.” To get there, we need a strong focus on training and education. The EV industry needs to prioritize the development of thousands of new technicians if we are to usher in a new era of transportation.

An important distinction to make is that EV technicians are not the same as auto mechanics. Nor are they electricians — they are a unique entity, requiring their own specific set of skills and training. When your EV needs repairs, you cannot simply go to a mechanic; the vehicle’s issue must be appropriately diagnosed by an EV technician. The same is true for charging stations, whether public or at private residences.

Programs are popping up across Canada, at institutions like the British Columbia Institute of Technology, CPA Montreal and Centennial College. At George Brown College, students enrolled in our newly launched EV technician program receive both theoretical and laboratory instruction, learning new skills specific to the electric revolution: testing, validation, safety, understanding the electrical and electronic circuits found in a typical EV.

It’s a positive sign that schools and organizations recognize the demand for new training, but what we need more than anything is a nationally recognized certification model that provinces and the educational institutions therein can align to.

If we are going to execute a national strategy for the elimination of internal combustion engine vehicles, it is imperative that we also develop a national strategy to support and educate the people who will be leading the charge.

About the Author

Colin Simpson, Dean of Continuing Education, George Brown College

Colin Simpson is the Dean of Continuing Education at George Brown College, where a new electric vehicle technician program has recently launched.