Illinois colleges to add manufacturing training schools


Advanced manufacturing training academies planned for Southwestern Illinois College, Heartland Community College

SOUTHWESTERN ILLINOIS COLLEGE (SWIC) and Heartland Community College will expand training in specialized skills for high-demand manufacturing jobs including building electric vehicles, starting with a $15 million capital investment included in the Rebuild Illinois program. – SWIC photo

Belleville, IL – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced plans to build two advanced manufacturing training academies, including one at Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC).

The academies will expand training in specialized skills for high-demand manufacturing jobs including building electric vehicles, starting with a $15 million capital investment under the Rebuild Illinois program.

The second location is at Heartland Community College in Normal.

The two schools were chosen from a wider group of proposals, Pritzker reported in a news release. The state funds will be matched with $4.95 million in commitments for capital projects and additional support from employers and regional partners.

The programs are expected to launch later this year, enrolling hundreds of students.
While each program will have a different focus, both will help meet the demand for state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing training downstate, said Sylvia Garcia, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.

“As the electric vehicle (EV) 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,” Garcia said.

The $7.5 million grant going to SWIC will create the Advanced Manufacturing Center, a manufacturing education hub in Belleville, to expand the school’s existing manufacturing training facilities. The college will break ground this year and welcome students into the new facilities by fall 2022.

SWIC is also creating a diverse recruitment program to encourage minority and women students to participate in the new training.

“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,” SWIC President Nick Mance said.

“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.”

At Heartland Community College, a $7.5 million grant will enable development of the Electric Vehicle-Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy (EVES). This program will be a partnership with electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian and is expected to create 1,600 jobs in the next two years.

Heartland will develop an auto shop to be used for training for EV manufacturing. This program will help meet growing needs of the region and prepare Illinois to seize on the rapid growth of the EV industry, with Illinois jobs expected to double by 2024, Pritzker said.

“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 for Rivian.

Brian Durham, executive director of the Illinois Community College Board, said the training academies will address a skills shortage in the industries and new technologies in manufacturing production to meet the needs of regional employers in downstate communities.

“Manufacturing remains an important and growing industry for our state, and we are poised, with the right investments, to ensure more Illinoisans get the opportunities they need to train for these 21st century jobs,” he said.


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