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WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

Watch now: Heartland gets $7.5 million for training center

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced plans to create a $7.5 million electric vehicle workforce development program at Heartland Community College. The move comes as electric vehicle maker Rivian ramps up production in Normal.

NORMAL — Wednesday’s announcement of the advanced manufacturing training academy to be created at Heartland Community College was met with excitement and pride.

Heartland is receiving a $7.5 million grant from the state, which will be matched by $1.5 million in private employer commitments, to develop an Electric Vehicle-Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy, which Heartland is calling EVES.


Watch now: $7.5 million electric vehicle workforce training program coming to Normal


The academy will provide a pipeline of trained workers for Rivian, which is ramping up to begin production in June. But those commenting on the announcement said the good news goes beyond Rivian.

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“We are excited for the college but, more importantly, we’re excited for the community,” said Heartland President Keith Cornille.

He credited partnerships not only with Rivian but other manufacturers, large and small, with helping to land the state grant.

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker stood with Jim Chen, left, Rivian vice president of public policy and chief regulatory council; Heartland College President Keith Cornille; Brian Durham, deputy director of the Illinois Community College Board; and State Rep. Dan Brady as Pritzker announced funding for a $7.5 million electric vehicle education center at Heartland Community College on Wednesday.

“This is a jumping-off point,” he said, but “we’re not stopping here. We’re going to continue to reach out to other avenues” to expand offerings in areas such as robotics and other advanced manufacturing techniques.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said, “I think we’re going to see more manufacturers in the community.”

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He noted that Bloomington-Normal has an airport, three interstates and railroads for bringing in supplies or sending out finished goods.

Aerial footage shows 380 acres being purchased by Rivian outside Normal. 

“The other piece of the pie is a skilled workforce,” which the academy will enhance, Koos said.

Patrick Hoban, president and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, called the academy a great investment in the area’s current and future workforce.

“I’m especially happy that it’s based on manufacturing,” he said, noting that manufacturing jobs have a “bigger ripple effect” on the economy.

Watch now: Rivian closes deal on 380 acres west of Normal

Although Rivian was the focus of the announcement, Hoban also pointed to growth at Ferrero and the Brandt Group of Companies, which all need workers trained in automation and other modern manufacturing methods.

Koos also mentioned continued growth at the Bridgestone Americas plant in Normal as a sign of the growing strength of manufacturing in the community.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, who attended the announcement on the Heartland campus, called it a “natural fit for Heartland” with its proximity to Rivian.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said in a statement, “It’s good to see the state step up to help keep our workforce ready for a changing and ever-competitive global economy.”


Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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About $1.7 million of $3.65 million received in federal COVID-19 relief funds will go toward covering costs of pandemic mitigation measures, virus testing, remote learning/working software and other related costs, the Heartland Community College board of trustees learned at its meeting Tuesday.

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