Home » Toyota investing $1.7 million in Kentucky to help diversify engineering workforce

Toyota investing $1.7 million in Kentucky to help diversify engineering workforce

Dr. Yangyang Wu, in the UK Brazing lab involved with the NASA project, at the University of Kentucky on November 4, 2020. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, is teaming up with three institutions of higher education in Kentucky to help change the face of engineering.

Toyota announced a $1.7 million investment to increase opportunities for underrepresented students and assist them in earning engineering degrees.

Pending approval from the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, the gift will be used to establish and support the Toyota Engineering Technology Diversity Scholarship Fund, which will provide annual scholarships for undergraduate students from the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville or Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC).

Preference will be given to students whose ethnic, racial, gender or background would enhance the diversity of their institution, as long as these preferences are narrowly tailored to the university’s achievement of its interest in obtaining the educational benefits of a diverse student body. However, every student who is enrolled in the program, is a Kentucky resident and has unmet financial need will have an opportunity to compete for the scholarship.

“Building a stronger Kentucky will require deliberate and sustainable efforts to provide equal access to quality education. This program will give more people a chance to build great careers in fields like engineering,” Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), said.  Toyota is committed to providing resources, time and knowledge to help build stronger communities in which we operate. We’re thankful for great education partners that have the same mission.”

Beginning Fall 2021, 35 students over a five-year period will be selected to receive full-tuition scholarships. In addition to the preferences, participation in the program and Kentucky residency status, recipients will be determined after a review of the applicants’ qualifications, such as academic merit, extracurricular and volunteer activities, and professional goals.

The students will be mentored by Toyota engineers and participate in a paid co-op opportunity with the company earning $17-$21 per hour. Additionally, they will complete two to three co-op rotations that will provide critical hands-on experience.

“Toyota has been a longtime partner of UK, since locating in Kentucky nearly 35 years ago,” Rudolph Buchheit, dean of the UK College of Engineering, said. “This is another example of Toyota seeing a need and stepping up to do something about it. It’s imperative to increase gender and ethnic diversity among our faculty, staff and students.”

“There is critical shortage of women and minorities in the engineering workforce,” Emmanuel Collins, dean of UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, added. “Toyota’s investment and partnership to help diversify our talent pipeline perfectly aligns with the university’s goals, and we are grateful to be a part of this collaboration.”

Stephen Brennen, vice president of production engineering at PEMC, agrees that strengthening the industry’s talent pipeline and staying ahead of customer demands will require new ways of thinking. “Not only for the continued growth and innovation of the field, but also to help Toyota move forward as we work toward our mobility vision for the future.”

Greg Feeney, BCTC’s provost, echoed the others and added, “Diversity creates rich and productive workplaces and communities. We are pleased to join Toyota and our university partners to create opportunities for students.”