$15 million will be invested in the construction of two downstate Illinois manufacturing training academies, as announced recently by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
This funding comes as a boost to the state’s manufacturing workforce, and will aim to help Illinois locals gain easier opportunities within advanced manufacturing careers and have boosted access in regards to developing the skills necessary for such employment.
“I’m proud to announce the winning projects of a $15 million Rebuild Illinois investment to establish two new downstate manufacturing training academies, [Southwestern Illinois College] in the Metro East and Heartland CC and Rivian here in Normal,” tweeted Pritzker.
The two academies–which will be located at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville and Heartland Community College in Normal– will start enrolling new students as soon as this year, announced Pritzker, along with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Jumping into these career possibilities as soon as possible is key for these students, explained the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s acting director, Sylvia Garcia.
“As the electric vehicle industry and other advanced manufacturing roles see increasing demand in Illinois, we are preparing to seize those jobs with investments made across our communities and to maintain our state as a top destination for companies to grow and invest,” she said.
$7.5 million of this funding will be allocated to Heartland Community College to aid the development of its Electric Vehicle/Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy. These efforts are in collaboration with Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer, and the college will match state funds up to $1.5 million for the development of an electric vehicle manufacturing training-based auto shop–an effort set to bring in around 1,600 jobs by 2023.
“HCC will be the home of the Electric Vehicle/Energy Storage Systems (EVES) Manufacturing Training Academy,” said Heartland Community College in a tweet. “HCC received a grant from the Illinois DCEO and a commitment in private funding from regional partners, including Rivian.”
The future of clean energy possibilities relies on programs like these, which offer students the opportunities and training they need to be ready for the industry upon graduation, explained Rivian’s vice president of public policy and chief regulatory counsel, James Chen.
“This project will help prepare local workers for the well-paid technical jobs that the clean energy transition requires,” he said.
Chen also noted that these efforts align strongly with his company’s goals to help this industry reach its full potential, which starts at the hands of educated, forward-thinking individuals.
“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,” he added.
The remaining funding will be funneled into a manufacturing-focused education hub to be implemented at Southwestern Illinois College, which will break ground as soon as this year and open to students by 2022. The Advanced Manufacturing Center will also include career training services for students, with opportunities within welding manufacturing and the industrial electricity industry. Additionally, the college’s program will bring about boosted efforts to recruit women and other minorities in order to adequately address industry equity concerns.
“One of Southwestern Illinois College’s primary goals is to train students for well-paying, highly-skilled, in-demand career fields, and the construction of a manufacturing training academy will bolster these efforts,” explained Nick Mance, President of Southwestern Illinois College.
Mance added that these funds will bring direct positive impact to the state of Illinois’ economic development–including to the boost that it has needed following challenges brought about from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of the unemployment rate and economic distress in the area, it is more crucial than ever that students embark on a viable career pathway that leads directly to steady employment paying a living wage or better,” he said.
This funding comes from Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan, which was approved in 2019 as an effort to improve overall state infrastructure and allocate funds to projects working to rebuild, repair, or boost state parks, historic sites, roads, bridges, education, clean water infrastructure, and transit. For the funding of Rebuild Illinois, Illinois saw doubled fuel tax rates in 2019, which continued to rise in 2020.