‘Jobs of tomorrow’: Michigan automakers get federal funds to train local workers for EV jobs

Michigan automakers

Assembly line workers Alfredo Gutierrez, left, and Ryan Pontillo attach an LG battery to a 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV at the General Motors Orion Assembly, June 15, 2023, in Lake Orion, Mich.

By Kyle Kaminski

May 7, 2024

Federal funding is set to help Michigan’s automotive parts suppliers retool their assembly lines for electric vehicles—and ensure Michigan workers are prepared to keep putting the world on wheels.

MICHIGAN—New federal and state partnerships announced this week by President Joe Biden’s administration are set to further position Michigan as a national leader in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, namely by ensuring Michigan workers are trained and ready for new jobs.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Detroit this week, where she touted the US Department Department of Energy’s declaration of Michigan as the nation’s latest “Workforce Hub” for EV manufacturing—which she said is designed to ensure Michiganders have access to training, education, and services that provide a path to a “good career” within their local communities.

As a new federally designated Workforce Hub, Michigan is set to get some extra support from the federal government. The White House is set to work with state officials, union leaders, employers, colleges, high schools, and other groups to ensure that new manufacturing jobs are filled, and that Michigan can build on its long history of automotive manufacturing.

The Biden administration is also setting aside $100 million in grant funding for Michigan automotive parts suppliers that are transitioning to EV manufacturing—namely to help them retool, reboot, and rehire in the same factories with comparable wages for their workers.

The Energy Department’s Automotive Conversion grant program will receive $50 million to help small- and medium-size suppliers and the Industrial Assessments Center Implementation grant program will get the other $50 million, specifically to help auto suppliers improve their facilities’ energy efficiencies, cybersecurity, or productivity, according to the White House.

The overarching goal? Ensure Michigan remains the “engine of the American auto industry,” state officials said in a release announcing the new workforce development plans this week.

“This funding not only propels our state to the forefront of innovation but also ensures more Michiganders have access to quality jobs in these expanding sectors,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “This investment underscores our commitment to building a resilient economy that works for everyone and positions Michigan as a leader in the transition to a sustainable future.”

Workforce Hub

Biden’s EV “Workforce Hub” designation is designed to leverage the full weight of the federal government to promote job opportunities in specific pockets of the country—including by directing funding to communities made available through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

The first five “Workforce Hubs” were announced last summer in the cities of Columbus, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Augusta, and Phoenix. And last month, Biden’s administration added four more to the list: Upstate New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and the entire state of Michigan.

Already, those federal designations have led to dozens of significant commitments from companies to create new jobs—including an initiative to train 10,000 skilled construction workers in Ohio and a new semiconductor apprenticeship program in Arizona, officials said.

Since the passage of Biden’s clean energy plan, Michigan has also attracted at least $21.5 billion in investment and created or moved forward more than 20,000 new clean energy jobs—enough for Climate Power to declare the state as a “battery manufacturing powerhouse.”

But the work isn’t done. And according to federal officials, the new designation is also set to ensure that all workers—including women, people of color, veterans, and those who have been historically left behind—have fair access to new job opportunities as they become available.

“Michigan workers are the best in the world,” US Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in a statement. “President Biden’s decision to locate this workforce hub in Michigan showcases our innovation and leadership in our clean energy future. This investment means that workers who have powered our auto industry for years will power the electric vehicle industry into the future.”

Small Supplier Grant Program

Michigan is home to over 1,000 independent automotive parts suppliers. And according to federal officials, 140 of those parts suppliers (and over 45,000 of their workers) may soon need to retool their assembly lines and convert to making more parts for electric vehicles.

The new $50 million grant program is designed to assist those companies, as well as meet the Biden administration’s broader goals of developing a domestic EV supply chain, retaining existing manufacturing jobs, and ensuring 50% of new vehicle sales are electric by 2032.

“These innovative programs will allow more Michiganders across the state to get to work building cars, batteries and more,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said in a statement. “By supporting our small suppliers and empowering the next generation of EV workers, we’re not just investing in infrastructure, we’re investing in the livelihoods of our people and the prosperity of our state.”

Reports show that clean energy businesses—including EV and battery manufacturing facilities—added more than 5,400 workers in 2022 and now employ nearly 124,000 Michiganders. Since Whitmer took office, the state has also announced more than 37,000 automotive jobs, fueled by recent investments from General Motors, Ford, and other companies.

Forecasts also show that Michigan could lure in another 41,000 new clean energy jobs by 2040, particularly as the nation’s leading automakers turn their attention toward cleaner energy.

“We are not just preparing workers for the jobs of tomorrow, we are ensuring Michigan remains at the forefront of innovation in battery and advanced manufacturing, ultimately strengthening our economy and securing prosperity for all,” Susan Corbin, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said in a statement this week.

READ MORE: Michiganders saving thousands on EVs thanks to Inflation Reduction Act

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Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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