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On statewide tour, University of Illinois president meets with Rivian on EV hiring needs

Tim Killeen
M. Spencer Green
University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen visited WGLT's Sound Ideas this week during a statewide tour to promote collaboration and innovation.
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The president of the University of Illinois System earlier this week met with Rivian officials as part of a statewide tour to discuss innovation.

Tim Killeen said he’s interested in learning what kind of jobs the company will need to fill as the company expands and EV technology progresses.

The rapidly evolving field of electric vehicle technology is creating a greater demand for technical training programs like those offered through Heartland Community College’s EVES Manufacturing Training Program. Killeen said the U of I System is exploring ways to support such programs as the need for specialized training grows.

While there will always be a demand for four-year degrees, Killeen said every component of the “educational spectrum” is important. That includes equitable access to two-year programs and the kind of stackable certificates that enable to students hone their skill sets and keep pace in a changing economic landscape.

"Because they’re going to be moving into an economy that’s fast paced, that’s globally competitive, where up-skilling and re-skilling is going to be important,” Killeen said.

Killeen spoke to WGLT's Sound Ideas this week while on the statewide tour meeting with lawmakers, local leaders, and others.

Killeen underscored the importance of collaboration among the state’s educational institutions.

The U of I is partnered with a statewide network of universities — including Illinois State University — in a program called the Illinois Innovation Network. The idea behind it, Killeen said, is to work together to lay the groundwork to both grow the economy through innovation and prepare students for jobs within it. The network comprises every public university in the state, Killeen said, as well as international partners.

“We’re very excited to have Illinois as a whole basically raise its game in an innovation ecosystem that will create prosperity and jobs for our graduating students,” said Killeen, adding one of the network's objectives is to keep students in the state once they complete their degree.

He said Illinois has a lot to offer.

“It’s time to take advantage of our assets: Fresh water, arable soil, brilliant young people who deserve opportunities,” said Killeen.

Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
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