Lansing, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain and others gathered in mid-Michigan on Tuesday to introduce the Battery Workforce Initiative.

Led by the U.S. Department of Energy, this program would create a list of “skill requirements and competencies for workers in advanced battery manufacturing facilities. Employers, joint labor-management organizations, educators, and others may use this framework to design and implement job training programs that are responsive to the needs of the industry for workers, both entry-level employees and incumbent workers, who wish to upgrade their skills and knowledge,” according to the DOE.

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UAW President Shawn Fain expressed his support for the program and how it would help workers.

“We welcome investments that allow workers to succeed and to prosper in today’s complex workplaces,” he said during the announcement. “We embrace partnerships like the Battery Workforce Initiative that give workers the expertise, the confidence, and the ability to succeed in rapidly evolving industries.”

Former Michigan Governor Granholm shares her vision for the program.

Secretary of Energy Granholm shared the importance of not only creating incentives for the cars, but also the importance of having a trained workforce for “future facing jobs.”

“In the electric vehicles space, we can be building these cars but if people have range anxiety about buying them, and feeling like they’re not going to get a charge, then you will have missed a piece of the strategy,” Sec. Granholm said.

Sec. Granholm shared that she has been working to partner with schools, companies, and the UAW to make this program a reality.

“We now have a certified training program which we are ready to pilot across America in plants so we can refine it, so that when the Ultium plant represented by the UAW is hiring and turning the switches on, they will be able to have a workforce trained through this partnership.”

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The Ultium plant construction is underway in Delta Township.

Congresswoman Eliss Slotkin (D-Lansing) weighs in on the new program.

“The beauty of being a legislator is when you get to see the stuff that you vote on actually matter in your own district in your own state,” Congresswoman Slotkin said.

She also shared that in her experience as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and worker in the Pentagon, she looks at issues through the lens of national security.

“In our country we are not safe, if we do not have a strong middle class,” Congresswoman Slotkin said, “We have to always be a place where anyone from anywhere can get into the middle class.”

Many people in Michigan are trying to get into the middle class according to Congresswoman Slotkin, and this new program is an answer to that goal.

“This is saying we’re not going to sit on our laurels and wait for China to eat our lunch on electric vehicles,” she said. “We’re gonna do it here, we’re gonna make it here even if its new, even if it’s different, and we’re going to train our workforce so that we can get the jobs of the future and our kids can have a better life than us.”

Congresswoman Slotkin added regarding the national security and EV issue “either we’re gonna build them or someone else is gonna build them,” she said adding, “and if it’s a choice between team America and team China, I’m on team America.”

Gov. Whitmer on Michigan’s role in the future of the auto industry.

Gov. Whitmer highlighted how the auto industry was changing.

“We all know that the world is transitioning to electric,” Gov. Whitmer said. “Global Electric Vehicle sales rose 31% in 2023, and 1.2 million Electric Vehicles were sold in the U.S. last year.”

Gov. Whitmer added Michigan automakers also know this, as they are building battery factories, producing more hybrids, and plug-ins.