Rivian is looking to hire hundreds of workers for its Normal manufacturing plant over the next few years. Heartland Community College wants to be ready to help get them trained.
Heartland President Keith Cornille told WGLT his college is in discussions with Rivian about its workforce-training needs. Those discussions are ongoing, and the end result is still being shaped, he said. He said many of Rivian’s needs can be met with existing Heartland programs, such as welding and electronics. But new degree or certificate programs may be needed, such as in battery technology, Cornille said.
Heartland’s Rivian efforts will also involve a partnership with Illinois Central College in East Peoria. ICC has an automotive technology program that Heartland does not, Cornille said.
“As we think about where that workforce is going to come from, likely it’s going to come from a regional perspective, so that means we have to partner side by side with Illinois Central, and we are,” he said. “We have our staffs working together and involved with conversations with Rivian right now.”
Rivian had around 190 employees in Normal as of late November. There’s an array of job openings now posted on Rivian’s Careers webpage, including battery validation engineers and technicians, weld engineer, CNC machinist/programmer, and tool and die technicians.
Rivian has said it plans to hire around 1,000 workers by 2024. It will begin making its electric vehicles—and the batteries that power them—in late 2020.
So far, Rivian’s workforce needs have been similar to those of other advanced manufacturers that Heartland serves, Cornille said. That includes expertise in robotics, welding, fabrication, electronics, industrial maintenance. Another commonality is an interest in workplace safety.
Rivian’s arrival may lead Heartland to modify some of its existing programs, such as electronics, to meet its specific needs, Cornille said. Will they need to hire new faculty?
“Whenever a major manufacturer comes in, that’s always the question: Do we have the folks that we need to train? That’s where the collaboration comes into play, how we’re working with our colleagues across the region, especially with Illinois Central College,” Cornille said, citing that college’s auto tech program.
Cornille stressed that Heartland’s focus is broader than just Rivian. He said they’re in frequent communication with other employers, such as Bridgestone, Brandt, Caterpillar (in Pontiac), and Hudson-based Nussbaum Transportation.
“We’re looking 5, 10 years down the road and saying, what is it the people of this area are going to need in education? We’re looking at one slice right now (with Rivian),” he said. “But Heartland is always looking toward the future and trying to be innovative and creative in what we’re doing.”
You can also listen to the full interview: