Illinois Gov. Pritzker Directs $15 Million to Manufacturing Training Academies

Gov. Jay Pritzker
Gov. Pritzker at a past press conference. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

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In an effort to develop the manufacturing workforce, Illinois Gov. Jay “J.B.” Pritzker announced a $15 million investment to build two advanced manufacturing training academies.

The academies, located in downstate Illinois, will offer hundreds of residents the opportunity to develop skills for careers in advanced manufacturing.

Pritzker, who was joined by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in making the announcement, said the academies will begin enrolling students later this year.

“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,” said Sylvia Garcia, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The training facilities will be located at Heartland Community College in Normal and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

At Heartland Community College, a $7.5 million grant from the state will support the development of the Electric Vehicle - Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy, which involves a partnership with electric vehicle maker Rivian. Matching state funds with a private commitment of $1.5 million, the college will develop a new auto shop that will be used exclusively for electric vehicle manufacturing training. The program is expected to create 1,600 jobs in the next two years.

“This project will help prepare local workers for the well-paid technical jobs that the clean energy transition requires,” said James Chen, vice president of public policy and chief regulatory counsel for Rivian. “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.”

A second grant for $7.5 million will create a new manufacturing education hub at Southwestern Illinois College. The Advanced Manufacturing Center will break ground in 2021 and will open its facilities to students by fall 2022. Career training opportunities will include roles in the industrial electricity and welding manufacturing sectors. The program will also aim to address equity concerns with a recruitment effort targeting minorities and women.

“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,” said Southwestern Illinois College President Nick Mance. “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.”

The investment was made through Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan, an infrastructure improvement initiative approved in 2019 that supports investment in roads, bridges, transit, education, state parks, historic sites and clean water infrastructure.

Illinois’ fuel tax rate doubled in 2019 as part of Rebuild Illinois, and rates increased again slightly in 2020.

The state’s current motor fuel excise tax rates are 46.2 cents per gallon for diesel and 38.7 cents per gallon for gasoline.

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