Illinois State University is taking next steps toward the launch of mechanical and electrical engineering programs.
ISU has been considering the addition of engineering for years. It’s seen as a way to bolster ISU’s enrollment and curb an outmigration of students leaving Illinois to study engineering.
Speaking Thursday at the Education to Employer Fall Summit at Heartland Community College, President Larry Dietz said ISU could also help Illinois confront a shortage of engineers. And that need existed before Rivian and Brandt moved into McLean County, adding even more demand for high-skilled workers.
“So those needs are still there. They’re amplified now by the presence of those organizations here,” Dietz said. “We want to be a participant with that.”
Dietz was present last Sunday when Rivian showed off its vehicles in Uptown Normal and accepted resumes from jobseekers. It’s expected to hire at least 1,000 people at its Normal manufacturing plant. Open positions now posted on Rivian’s website include battery manufacturing engineering, packaging engineer, facilities engineer, and weld engineer.
ISU’s Board of Trustees is expected to vote Friday on including an estimated $100 million engineering building on the capital projects wish list that ISU would request from the state. While it’s first on the wish list, the state usually does not fund capital requests like this right away.
The Academic Senate recently approved the administration’s proposal to request capital funding from the state for the proposed building, according to Dietz and Senate chair Susan Kalter.
“We have a lot more to do. We have a lot more faculty development to do,” Dietz said.
Dietz provided an update on the engineering programs during his Sept. 17 State of the University address. At that time, he said “the next step is hiring an architectural/engineering firm to help us determine the approximate size of facility we need and programs that could share space with engineering programs.”
ISU already offers majors in engineering technology and engineering physics.
“It’s a matter of adding to that, and adding onto that. I think it’s a great opportunity to partner with those new organizations that are coming into town and being a real partner on that,” Dietz said.
A timeline for the engineering programs calls for campus forums to be held sometime in spring 2020, to get additional feedback on the proposal.
It’s unclear how soon the programs could formally launch. They could have as many as 800 to 1,000 students, according to documents prepared for the Academic Senate.
Dietz spoke at the Education to Employer Fall Summit, presented by the McLean County COMPACT. WGLT was a co-sponsor of the event.
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