SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday the state was distributing funds to two downstate Illinois community colleges for electric vehicle manufacturing and renewable energy generation training programs.
Pritzker made the announcement at Heartland Community College in Normal, where one of the new programs will launch.
“I’m committed to building an Illinois that is focused on high quality skilled labor and developing that so that we can maintain our manufacturing prowess for generations to come,” Pritzker said at the news conference. “And so that our residents are ready for the millions of new manufacturing jobs arising over the next decade.”
HCC and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville will begin enrolling students in their new specialized manufacturing programs for the fall semester.
HCC is partnering with electric vehicle automaker Rivian to establish a training academy for students who want to join the manufacturing industry. Along with state funds, a $1.5 million private employer commitment will allow HCC to develop a new auto shop that will be used exclusively for training in how to build electric vehicles.
The program will start with about a dozen students and be fully operational by 2023.
SWIC will also add to its existing manufacturing training facilities to offer industrial electricity and welding manufacturing training. This facility is expected to begin operation by fall 2022.
The programs are funded through the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan that passed in the governor’s first year in 2019.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said that the funds will be split between the two programs, with each college receiving $7.5 million to launch their programs. The state funds will also be met with $4.95 million in matching commitments for capital projects, officials said.
DCEO acting director Sylvia Garcia said the manufacturing industry is one of the largest employers in the state, with more than 550,000 workers and over 18,000 companies across different communities in Illinois.
Advanced Energy Economy, an industry association which promotes advanced energy technologies and services, released its “Electrifying Illinois” report earlier this month which shows the state is on pace to reach 83 percent job growth in electric transportation-related work by 2024, regardless of legislative action.
Electronic transportation activity in Illinois, according to the report, contributed $850 million to Gross State Product based on data from the 2019 United States Energy Employment Report, which was produced by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Institute.
Vice President of Public Policy and Chief Regulatory Counsel for Rivian, James Chen, said this project will help prepare local workers for a clean energy transition in the state.
“We are only in the early stages of the electric transportation revolution and competition for skilled workers will only increase,” Chen said. “As the nation is preparing to lead on electric transportation, Illinois is setting an excellent example for other states, how to serve a motivated community that wants to be part of this burgeoning sector, specifically public private partnerships that prioritize workers are a model for a strong workforce development.”
Pritzker said the training programs will also help the state attract more business. He said while the industry, including Rivian, continues to evolve rapidly.
“What you see on their assembly line today will be somewhat outmoded, they’ll be upgrading and they’ll need new skills to fill those jobs,” Pritzker said. “So we need a constant upgrading of skills, and that’s what Heartland and SWIC and programs like those will offer and again, that’s very attractive for manufacturers across the nation, to see that Illinois is ahead of the game.”