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Federal officials promote training program for EV battery plants at Michigan event

Nissan Leaf cutaway showing part of the battery in 2009
Nissan Leaf cutaway showing part of the battery in 2009

Federal and state officials announced new standards for a program designed to train workers at electric vehicle battery factories in Lansing Tuesday, as Michigan aggressively recruits EV and battery-related investments.

The new Battery Workforce Initiative standards would guide registered apprenticeships for battery machine operators.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said that will get workers across Michigan and the country on the same page.

“For too long, we’ve allowed other nations to lead battery manufacturing. No longer. We are going to bring the supply chain of electric vehicle production, from batteries to brakes, home to Michigan and home to the United States,” Whitmer told the Lansing crowd.

The initiative is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Labor.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said it’s part of holistic thinking about the economy.

“You can provide incentives for employers to come but, if you’re not making sure you have a workforce that’s trained for those jobs, those future-facing jobs, then you will have missed the whole pie,” Granholm said.

Registered apprenticeships come through programs registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, hence the name.

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su said the programs provide real-world experiences to help set workers up for the future.

“Registered apprenticeship programs allow people to earn while they learn. They have wage progression in them. They have not just a job at the end of it but a career that can last a lifetime,” Su said.

A press release from the Department of Energy said curricula based on the new standards is still being worked on.

Jonathan Smith is senior chief deputy director with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

The list of speakers at the event also included UAW President Shawn Fain, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI 8), and Lansing Community College Provost Sally Welch.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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