Alabama is building a $30 million workforce training center to focus on electric vehicles and new technologies in the auto industry. The facility will be located at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park in Decatur. (Made in Alabama photo)
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Nov. 27 that the state is constructing a $30 million workforce training center in Decatur that will focus on electric vehicles (EV) and emerging technologies in order to help advance the growth of the state's auto industry.
The new facility will be located on the campus of the Alabama Robotics Technology Park, a unique $73 million center operated by Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) that helps companies train workers on advanced R&D and manufacturing technologies.
"Alabama is already a recognized leader in workforce development, and this training center concentrating on EVs and new technologies will add an important dimension to our capabilities," Ivey said. "This investment shows that we're fully committed to making Alabama an even greater force in the global auto industry in the future."
AIDT Director Ed Castile noted that design work has begun on the planned facility, which is projected to encompass 40,000 sq. ft. at Robotics Park, where there is room for growth on 40 available acres.
He said Montgomery-based Goodwyn Mills and Cawood (GMC), one of the Southeast's largest architecture and engineering firms, is designing the new training center to be expandable and easy to reconfigure to meet future demands. GMC is familiar with the Robotics Park site, having previously worked on the three existing training buildings located there.
The proposed training center is expected to be operational in 18 to 24 months, according to Made in Alabama, the online news site for the state's Department of Commerce.
"Our main goal is to help the state's automakers continue to grow during the transition to electric powertrains and assist them as they embrace new technologies that are evolving all the time," said Castile, who also serves as deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
"We just want to make sure we have workforce that has the ability to thrive in this new environment, so it's a natural extension of what we do at Robotics Park," he added.
New Programs to Be Created for EV Training Center
AIDT and Commerce have been working for some time on developing programs for the new training center, Made in Alabama noted, including making visits to EV battery factories in Japan and Europe. A technical committee composed of auto industry leaders and others also has been formed to offer guidance.
Additionally, a group of academic partners has been assembled as allies to advance the effort, including the Alabama Mobility and Power Center at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Community College System, and the state's K-12 school system.
"The auto industry is being confronted by the strong headwinds of disruptive technologies today, and it's vital that we're prepared to help Alabama's autoworkers adapt to the industry's shifting directions," said Greg Canfield, secretary of the state's Department of Commerce.
Plans for the training center come as Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai have launched production of EVs at their Alabama manufacturing plants, and companies in the EV battery supply chain also have begun locating in the state.
Made in Alabama noted that the activity is expected to accelerate amid massive industry EV investments.
Alabama's Legislature approved funding for the new training center during its last session through a bill sponsored by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
"Robotics Technology Park has long represented the gold standard for workforce training and a tremendous resource for Alabama and the companies that use it," he explained. "That makes it the perfect home for this new facility focusing on advanced automotive technologies, which will ensure an important industry in our state will continue to thrive."
Castile believes the EV training center will become a catalyst for auto industry growth in the state.
"Alabama's status is really growing in the automotive industry, and workforce will be a key component as we try to keep up with and even get ahead of what's going on in the industry. Everything we can come up that supports the development of our workforce is a step forward," he added. "I'm confident this is going to be a huge step for us."
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