Pritzker announces $15 million investment to create manufacturing training academies downstate

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NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced his administration will be expanding training for high-demand manufacturing jobs and investing in downstate communities Wednesday morning.

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), joined by Heartland Community College and Rivian, today announced an investment to build two advanced manufacturing training academies to expand training for high-demand manufacturing jobs in Illinois.

“Today, I’m proud to announce the winning projects that will launch two cutting edge new programs here in Illinois, which will begin enrolling students later this year. This capital investment – spurred by our historic Rebuild Illinois capital program – builds on the funding that Rebuilds already devotes to upgrading and expanding facilities at Illinois community colleges, cementing their key role in continuing to train our young workforce, and lifelong learners keeping their skills fresh. Today is just one indicator of the job and skills growth our state is seeing. Workforce investments like those we’re announcing here foreshadow even more good jobs we can fill in the future.”

Gov. Pritzker

The new training facilities will be established at Heartland Community College (HCC) in Normal, and Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) in Metro East. 

Governor Pritzker said the new programs will provide hundreds of Illinoisans with the skills necessary to apply for jobs in a more modern world.

“We’ve seen too often that jobs get created, we have lots of people who don’t have a job, but they don’t necessarily the skills to fill the job that is available,” Pritzker said.

Governor Pritzker said innovators like Rivian that come to Illinois and grow need workers who are capable of working with the latest technology.

“Matching those jobs and job skills, that’s what is going to get us out of the economic recession we went into as a result of the pandemic,” Pritzker said.

State funds will be met with $4.95 million in matching commitments for capital projects, as well as additional support from employers and regional partners to establish new training academies.

Programs are expected to launch later this year, enrolling hundreds of students in the first year of the program. While each program will have a different focus, both will help meet the demand for state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing training downstate, preparing Illinoisans to seize on advanced careers in the manufacturing sector in the years ahead.

“Community Colleges play an essential role in providing affordable and equitable access to education, and in turn, a pathway to sustainable careers. And partnership is key to building and maintaining the workforce needed to fulfill the promise of innovation in technical education and to grow the economy,” said Heartland Community College President Keith Cornille.

“These programs come at a critical time as we sustain our commitment to work ready programs that advance individuals quickly into a growing workforce.”

Heartland Community College President Keith Cornille.

At Heartland, a $7.5 million grant from the State will enable the development of the new Electric Vehicle-Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy (EVES). This first-of-its-kind EV manufacturing training program is made possible by a partnership with electric vehicle manufacturer, Rivian, which is expected to create an additional 1,600 jobs in the next two years alone.

Electric vehicle manufacturing currently employs 250,000 Americans and in 2019 made up $850 million of Illinois’ Gross State Product. Vice President of Public Policy for Rivian said this is just the first chapter of EV manufacturing in Illinois.

“We are only in the early stages of electric transportation revolution and competition for skilled workers will only increase. Participants in this academy can be confident that their skills will be highly valued for years to come,” Chen said.

“Participants in this academy can be confident that their skills will be highly valued for years to come.”

James Chen, Vice President of Public Policy and Chief Regulatory Counsel for Rivian

Matching state funds with a $1.5 million private employer commitment, HCC will develop a new auto shop used exclusively for training for EV manufacturing. This program will help meet the growing needs of the region and will prepare Illinois to seize on the rapid growth of the EV industry, with Illinois jobs expected to double by 2024.

“Rivian is honored to have supported the leadership of Governor Pritzker in establishing the Electric Vehicle-Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy. This project will help prepare local workers for the well-paid, technical jobs that the clean energy transition requires.  This project also reflects Rivian’s core values of community empowerment, innovation, and a strong foundation for the continued growth and success of the electric vehicle industry. We thank Governor Pritzker, the Illinois DCEO, and Heartland Community College for making this academy a reality.”

James Chen, Vice President of Public Policy and Chief Regulatory Counsel for Rivian

At SWIC, a second $7.5 million grant will create a new manufacturing education hub in Belleville – expanding upon the school’s successful manufacturing training facilities. The Advanced Manufacturing Center will break ground in 2021 and will welcome students into its new facilities by fall 2022.

The project will be completed in two phases: the first creating a new precision machining pathway, and the second aiming to expand career training for roles in industrial electricity and welding manufacturing.

Construction on a new 31,100 SF lab space complete will provide new computers and other specialized equipment. This new program will also prioritize helping to address equity gaps in the region – with SWIC creating a new diverse recruitment program to help ensure more minority and women students can participate in newly created training. 

Rivian is expected to add 1,600 jobs in the Bloomington-Normal area over the next two years.

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