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Illinois Board of Higher Education approves new degree programs for Heartland Community College

Heartland Community College has gained state approval for its EV technology program and another degree to train union members as managers and supervisors.
Charlie Schlenker
Heartland Community College has gained state approval for its EV technology program and another degree to train union members as managers and supervisors.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has approved two new degree programs at Heartland Community College. One of the new associate's programs is in electric vehicle technology, which will supply workers for places like Rivian in Normal, Zeller Electric in Goodfield, and Connect Transit in Bloomington-Normal.

Heartland Provost Rick Pierce said other community colleges will likely enter this arena, but the institution in Normal is first.

"We are working closely with Rivian on providing training for technicians as well as Lion in the Joliet area. There seems to be a growing demand, and we are early into this environment," said Pierce.

Lion Electric will build EV buses and trucks. Heartland also believes there will be a draw for its graduates from Invenergy and Power Up Illinois, both based in Chicago.

"The energy storage component of the program can be transferred from vehicles to post-vehicle battery second-life applications in stationary residential, commercial, and utility-scale energy storage systems," state documents prepared for the IBHE.

Trades management

The second new degree will be in trades management that will train trade union members for advanced opportunities in supervision or management.

"Anything we can do to help build the skilled workforce in our area is part of our mission. We have always enjoyed a good partnership with the trades and labor unions. And when they came to us with a need we decided to see what we could do to help them out," said Pierce.

Apprenticeship courses completed through a trade union such as laborers, electricians, plumbers and pipefitters, and boilermakers, may be used toward the degree.

"The career and technical education component includes instruction in business communications, customer relations, supervision, introduction to computer applications, construction mathematics, craft orientation, asbestos abatement, asphalt technology and construction, introductory and intermediate levels of concrete specialist, blueprint reading and specifications, grade checking, mason tending, pipe laying, bridge construction/renovation/demo, global positioning systems, hoisting and rigging, landscaping, and hazardous waste operations and procedures," according to IBHE documents.

Heartland said the programs will cost nearly $600,000 to ramp up over three years, but tuition and fees will sustain them thereafter. The trades management track will be done with existing faculty and facilities. The college told the board of higher education it expects 36 people to be enrolled by the third year of the electric vehicle tech program and 13 people in the trades management track.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.