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Autoworkers for the future: Pritzker tours electric vehicle manufacturing class in Bloomington

The governor says his administration is ready to get people hands-on experience with Rivian vehicles
Autoworkers for the future: Pritzker tours electric vehicle manufacturing class in Bloomington
Autoworkers for the future: Pritzker tours electric vehicle manufacturing class in Bloomington(Mike Miletich, Gray TV Illinois Capitol Bureau Chief)
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 4:23 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Gray TV) - Gov. JB Pritzker hopes Illinois will become the country’s hub to build and drive electric vehicles. Pritzker signed the massive clean energy plan into law last month and hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal.

The governor toured an electric vehicle energy storage (EVES) training classroom in Bloomington with legislative leaders Thursday morning. His administration is ready to get people hands-on experience with Rivian vehicles.

Illinois leaders hope to see a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and a network of charging stations built across the state. The climate plan also included $4,000 rebates for anyone buying electric vehicles. But, the governor says the new law is only part of his goal.

“We’re working to double down on our investments in electric vehicle manufacturing and suppliers,” Pritzker said. “With a legislative package that we’re putting forward, Illinois will stake out our ground in this booming industry and bring thousands of new jobs to our state.”

While that plan is still in the auto shop, 12 students at Heartland Community College are getting hands-on training with electric vehicles and energy storage. The Heartland training facility received funds from the state’s $15 million investment for manufacturing training earlier this year.

Hands-on learning with possible job opportunities in the future

The first group of students started the EV class in August and will leave certified for job opportunities in the booming industry.

Darrien Grismore said he was excited to see Pritzker visit his class.

“That was awesome. I’ve never seen him before and he actually came here to be with us. It seems that he’s really up for the program,” Grismore said. “I’m really up for it myself. It’s been definitely teaching me a few things. I don’t have a lot of base knowledge on vehicles myself, so I take this pretty extremely.”

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said the Heartland program is an excellent investment for educational opportunities to help the new workforce.

“This is how we’re going to rebuild Illinois and rebuild our economy,” Welch said. “Right here, through the heartland, through community colleges and universities, and in good-paying manufacturing jobs.”

Autoworkers for the future: Pritzker tours electric vehicle manufacturing class in Bloomington
Autoworkers for the future: Pritzker tours electric vehicle manufacturing class in Bloomington(Mike Miletich, Gray TV Illinois Capitol Bureau Chief)

Improving diversity in workforce training and the industry

Grismore is also glad to see Pritzker and lawmakers pushed for an equity provision in the clean energy plan to ensure Black and brown communities had these job opportunities. He said that the movement is great to improve diversity in workforce training and the industry itself.

Grismore said people should stop doubting others because anyone can succeed if they put their mind to it.

“They’re like oh, I didn’t think that kid could do it or I didn’t think someone of his base knowledge could do that. I take it seriously, to a great knowledge,” Grismore said. “Like no, I can do this.”

Heartland hopes to move this class to a brand new manufacturing building on campus by 2023. Leaders also anticipate 360 students can complete the program over the next five years.

Pritzker said he’s excited to see these students pave the way for others.

“The level of education, capability, and experience in a program like this is precisely what electric vehicle manufacturers, as well as suppliers, are looking for. They want to know that when they come to a state or to a region that there are enough people trained properly,” Pritzker said.

Illinois could include electric motorcycles in the $4,000 rebate plan

The governor also addressed a proposal from ABATE of Illinois to include motorcycles in the $4,000 rebate plan for electric vehicles. ABATE members pushed for inclusion in the original energy bill before it passed last month. Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) filed a bill Tuesday to address that issue. Three senators have already signed on as co-sponsors.

“That’s something that we’re looking at,” Pritzker said. “There’s no intentionality exactly to exclude. That’s something that’s going through the legislature right now, so I’ll take a good hard look at it.”

Pritzker said he doesn’t know if that bill will come up for a vote next week, but he looks forward to reviewing it.

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