CAC class photo

Central Arizona College students study during a Direct and Alternate Current Circuit Analysis course. The course is part of a certificate program designed to prepare students for advanced manufacturing jobs at employers like Lucid Motors.

SIGNAL PEAK — When Lucid Motors initially announced it would build a manufacturing plant in Casa Grande in January of 2017, the electric car startup said it planned to begin manufacturing in 2018 and would employ about 2,000 workers

Central Arizona College President Jackie Elliott emphasized at a Coolidge Economic Development Committee meeting shortly after the announcement that the college needed to get back to the original mission of community colleges: preparing the workforce for local jobs. Specifically, she said that CAC needed to develop a curriculum to meet the needs of the new plant and added that CAC had helped lure Lucid to the area.

That curriculum became the Industrial Maintenance certificate. CAC quickly announced it would repackage its offerings to meet the needs of local manufacturers and began marketing programs like the Industrial Maintenance certificate as a gateway to jobs with manufacturers like Lucid Motors.

But the plant didn’t go into operation as quickly as expected and more than a year after the initial announcement in April 2018, Lucid Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson told the trade magazine Charged that Lucid will not begin production for another two years, as the project has had difficulty securing funding.

Since then, 45 students have been through the program. But according to Elliott, the delay with the Lucid plant hasn’t slowed down the college or its graduates.

“Our students are graduating and getting hired by other industries,” Elliot said.

Students from the program have gone on to get jobs at Abbott Nutrition, Frito-Lay, Hexcel and Resolution Copper, and CAC has no plans to change the program in response to delays with the Lucid plant.

Another plant has been announced in the area that might fill the void if Lucid doesn’t. Nikola Corp. recently said it plans to build a million-square-foot plant in Coolidge to manufacture hydrogen-powered semi-trucks and could bring 1,800 to 2,000 jobs to the area.

Elliott said CAC students would be prepared for jobs in the new plant.

“To date, we have not met directly with Nikola,” Elliot said. “The Industrial Maintenance certificate program curriculum has been shared with them and appears to meet their needs.”

Site mobilization for the project is set for 2020.


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