Toyota announces $2.35 million grant to prepare students for advanced manufacturing careers

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Toyota USA Foundation announced Tuesday, its commitment to preparing teachers and students for the next generation of advanced manufacturing jobs through a $2.35 million grant to Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE).

Michael Medalla, manager, Toyota USA Foundation at Toyota North America, announces the company’s $2.35 million grant to Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). The grants were announced Tuesday at the annual Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways conference, hosted by the Northern Kentucky chapter of FAME in Florence (photos by Mark Hansel)

“Persistent workforce gaps in STEM fields can be solved by increased participation and inclusion of diverse students,” said Mike Goss, president, Toyota USA Foundation. “These investments will impact elementary, middle, high school, and community colleges across the country, and represent industry and education coming together to better prepare the nation’s youth.”

PLTW was awarded $2 million to support approximately 115 K-12 schools throughout the United States. NAPE was awarded $350,000 to create promotional tools and outreach strategies for educators to use with students and parents at the K-12 and community college levels. Both organizations will partner to increase the participation of women and people of color in advanced manufacturing education.

Mimi Lufkin, CEO of NAPE, said there are still roadblocks to steering students toward the lucrative opportunities that are available in STEM fields.

“Our society carries a lot of implicit biases, stereotypes that are alive and well,” Lufkin said. “What we have found is that if we can focus on promoting students who are from diverse backgrounds, who have been successful, that becomes the norm. That’s part of what this grant is all about – removing the stereotypes about who can be involved in advanced manufacturing. These fields have the highest wage-earning potential of any career area and also has the smallest pay gap, so the opportunities are boundless.”

Mimi Lufkin, CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity talks about the potential impact of the Toyota USA Foundation grants. She was joined at the podium by Michael Medalla (center) of the Toyota USA Foundation and Rex Bollinger of Project Lead The Way

The partnership is expected to generate 115 K-12 programs that will impact 10,000 students annually and produce 4 million hours of hands on career learning per year.

Rex Bollinger senior vice president of PLTW said the organization is considered the American standard in career learning.

“One of the ways that is emphasized is in partnering with a company like Toyota, which is arguably the world’s most studied company for efficiency and excellence,” Bollinger said. “To be partnered with them really sends strong signals, but we still have a lot of work to do. We are approaching 3 million students in our programs, but there are 54 million students in America, K-12 and we’d like to correct some of those biases and things that may still exist by starting those programs early.

The grants were announced at the annual Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways conference, hosted by the Northern Kentucky chapter of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) in partnership with the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) and Gateway Community and Technical College.

KY FAME is a company-sponsored partnership of regional employers who share the goal of creating a pipeline of highly skilled workers.

Wade Williams, secretary/treasurer of NKY FAME, said the decision to make the announcement in Northern Kentucky speaks to the region’s long-term partnership with Toyota and the impact of the programs here.

“This announcement comes at a time when many regions in the Midwest and South—including ours—are doubling down on workforce development efforts,” said Williams, who is also the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. “The future of our region’s economy depends on having a skilled and competent workforce. These grants continue to put resources in place, helping all of us get to where we want to be.”

The Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) serves as the primary economic development entity for Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties in Northern Kentucky.  Since its founding in 1987, more than 620 primary industry projects have located to or expanded within Northern Kentucky, creating more than 54,000 jobs and investing more than $7.3 billion.

Tri-ED is part of the Kentucky Innovation Network, a group of business leaders and mentors that encourages relationships, grows companies and creates jobs.

A recurring theme throughout the conference is that Northern Kentucky and NKY FAME are a model for what can be achieved through community partnerships that include stakeholders, educators and the public and private sectors.

Michael Medalla, manager, Toyota USA Foundation at Toyota North America said there are definitely some shared outcomes the company is looking for that will help Toyota, its partners, young people and communities across the nation.

“If we can build pathways that go into that cycle, then the foundation can keep giving, the teachers, can keep teaching, students can keep learning, and so on,” Medalla said. “That’s really what we are in this for.”

Contact Mark Hansel at

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