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Heartland Community College Developing EV Training Academy

With help from a state grant and private funding, Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill. is planning a new training school while electric vehicle maker Rivian readies for production in the city.

electric vehicles charging
(TNS) — Heartland Community College will develop an advanced training academy focused on electric vehicles and energy storage with the help of a $7.5 million state grant and $1.5 million in private company commitments.

The move comes as electric vehicle maker Rivian readies for production in Normal.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited Heartland's campus Wednesday to announce that Heartland was one of two community colleges to receive the grant, part of the Rebuild Illinois capital plan. The other is Southwestern Illinois College in Metro East.

"I was just thrilled about the opportunity to partner with Heartland," Pritzker said during a press conference, calling it "a day when we ought to be celebrating new jobs and new opportunity in our state."

The "state of the art training program" will start this fall with a group of 12 students, said Heartland President Keith Cornille.

The Electric Vehicle-Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy, which Heartland is calling EVES, will be "the first of its kind in the entire nation," said Pritzker.

Applications for the electric vehicle program will open in early summer. Individuals can fill out an "interest form" at to receive updates.

The initial phase will be offered at an off-campus facility. College officials said they could not disclose the location but said it would not be at Rivian.

Plans call for construction to begin on a six-bay electric vehicle lab in 2022, with it opening in fall 2023, said Curt Rendall, executive director of work ready program development and innovation at Heartland.

The EVES lab will be built on greenspace north of the current Student Commons Building. Classroom and office space will be converted from existing space in the SCB.

The project will "transform Central Illinois into a hub of innovation," Cornille said, with plans to seek more partners to develop more advanced manufacturing training in the future.

The college's updated facilities master plan includes a proposed Career Technical Education Building.

Rivian is expected to have 1,800 workers at its Normal plant by June, when production is scheduled to start.

Sylvia Garcia, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said, "Jobs in the electric vehicle industry at large are expected to double in the next three years."

Jim Chen, Rivian's vice president of public policy, said, "As the nation is preparing to lead in electric transportation, Illinois is setting an excellent example for other states on how to serve a motivated community who wants to be a part of this burgeoning sector."

He added, "This project also reflects Rivian's core values of community empowerment, innovation and a strong foundation in continued growth and success of the electric vehicle industry."

Rivian bought the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in Normal four years ago for $16 million and has been ramping up for production to start in June. The company last week finalized the purchase of 380 acres of farmland west of the factory.

Rivian was founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate. The company also is developing showrooms in Chicago, New York and suburban Los Angeles and is under agreement with Amazon to develop electric delivery vehicles.

"We are so grateful to have them as a terrific new community-oriented corporate partner," Pritzker said of Rivian.

Both Heartland's program and the one at Southwestern Illinois College are committed to bringing underrepresented populations into manufacturing, including women and minorities, said Pritzker.

(c)2021 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.