Applications are now open for Heartland Community College’s first electric vehicle degree program that will train workers for potential jobs at Rivian and other companies.
There are 16 spots in the first cohort of students pursuing the Associate of Applied Science degree in Electric Vehicle Technology. They’ll start in the fall on a two-year, full-time program. Courses include High Voltage Architecture, Digital Electronics and Microprocessors, and industry safety, among many others.
Interest has been strong so far, said Curt Rendall, executive director for Heartland’s Work Ready program development and innovation.
“The Electric Vehicle Technology program is open to a wide variety of individuals. Anybody that’s interested in working with their hands. That want challenging and rewarding work. And wants to be a pioneer in moving to the forefront of technology,” Rendall said. “You would think you’d have to be an EV technician. But there’s a lot of other aligned jobs in manufacturing and support and even in traditional automotive you could go into.”
The associate’s degree program is the first step toward a broader EV training initiative at Heartland. The Pritzker administration recently announced a $7.5 million grant that Heartland will use to establish the Electric Vehicle–Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy, or EVES. That’s expected to open in 2023.
“In the meantime, we didn’t want to wait until we had that building two years from now to be able to launch the program. We’ve been working very quickly to build the program and be able to launch in the meantime in an interim facility,” Rendall said.
It’s a tall order; Heartland didn’t even have a traditional automotive technology program before now.
But the urgency is clear. Rivian, the electric automaker, is on a hiring spree in Normal. The company already has around 1,900 employees in Normal, with plans to hit 2,500 by the end of the year and between 3,000-4,000 by the end of 2022.
However, Heartland cautions prospective students that “acceptance to the EV program does not guarantee any current or future employment opportunities.”
“Rivian is fortunate to a have a lot of support from Rivian in developing the program,” Rendall said. “Not only in providing access to expertise, but building that communication between our program and their operation, so we can ensure students who complete the program are ready for work in the workforce. But at the same time, the program is much broader than any one employer. And there’s a lot of support from Rivian to ensure we’re building a program that meets the industry’s needs.”