Illinois puts $15M into 2 advanced manufacturing academies

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Illinois will spend $15 million on two academies that will train hundreds of workers in advanced manufacturing skills, with the first students enrolling later this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

The advanced manufacturing academies will be located at Heartland Community College in the central Illinois community of Normal and at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, near St. Louis.

The $15 million comes from Illinois’ capital plan, Pritzker’s office said Wednesday. Other funding will come from regional partners and employers such as Rivian, which has an electronic-vehicle assembly plant in Normal. The company is providing $1.5 million to create the Electric Vehicle-Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy at Heartland Community College.

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

Southwestern Illinois College will break ground this year on the Advanced Manufacturing Center. A 3,100-square-foot lab space will provide new computers and other specialized equipment, with new students starting there by the fall of 2022. The school plans to create a diverse recruitment program to ensure more minority and women students enroll, officials said.

College President Nick Mance said the new academy will strengthen efforts to train students for highly skilled, in-demand careers that pay well.

“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,” Mance said.