LIFT gets $200k from Skillman for STEM education

DETROIT—Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), a Detroit-based national manufacturing innovation center operated by the American Lightweight Materials Innovation Institute (ALMMII), announced that it has received a $200,000 grant from The Skillman Foundation.

The grant will help Detroit-area youth strengthen their academic and employability skills and increase their STEM foundational knowledge and technical skills in the Institute’s new Learning Lab, located inside its advanced manufacturing facility on Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

The grant will provide youth with exposure to careers in advanced manufacturing through the launch of a LIFT Advanced Manufacturing academic track at Detroit’s University Prep Science & Math High School. The program will connect in-school academics with daily experiences in the learning lab. The lab will also engage youth across the city who are not enrolled in the track in other exposure and immersion opportunities.

Specifically, a portion of the grant will support LIFT’s IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing curriculum, which will allow 100 University Prep Science & Math High School (UPSM) students to use the LIFT Learning Lab during the 2019-20 school year. That includes its Fundamental Skills Development Lab, Virtual Learning Lab, and Material Science Lab.

The remainder of the Skillman grant supports launching on-site immersion activities to introduce IGNITE and its project-based learning to an additional 100-200 middle and high school students. This will occur through partnerships with other schools and school districts as well as area community organizations.

Developed by a national partnership led by LIFT, and supported by funding from the Department of Defense, “IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing” is a three-year foundational competency-based educational program for the “multi-skilled technician” needed in today’s workplace. The new curriculum will introduce students to advanced manufacturing materials, processes and systems through on-line, interactive, multi-media and project-based learning built around real industry challenges.

The national development partners include Amatrol, the American Welding Society, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, The PAST Foundation, Ohio State University, MxD, and America Makes.

“Our institute is built on the premise that it takes partnerships—public, private and philanthropic—to tackle the large issues we are working to solve, like the skills gap in advanced manufacturing,” said Emily DeRocco, vice president for education and workforce development for LIFT. “This partnership with The Skillman Foundation is a perfect example of how communities and the organizations that serve them can come together and work toward sound talent development solutions that are a win-win-win for youth preparing for careers, manufacturers needing their next generation workforce, and educators who bridge that supply and demand.”

Added Tonya Allen, president and CEO of Skillman: “Rigorous academic and project-based learning opportunities are important for building young people’s skills and experience as they prepare for college and career. Our support of the LIFT Learning lab is one of many investments aimed at ensuring Detroit youth have access to such experiences. This grant builds on significant public and private sector investments in the facility and curriculum in order to activate the Lab for more young people, during and after school hours.”

And Mark Ornstein, CEO of University Prep Schools, added: “This partnership with LIFT will be incredibly impactful for our students and puts our STEM High School at the forefront of emerging technologies and manufacturing trends.”

Ron Hall, a Skillman Foundation board member and president and CEO of the auto supplier Bridgewater Interiors LLC, said: “It is great to see young people engaged in hands-on learning in a modern facility that enables them to experience what work is like in the field of manufacturing today. Programs like this could make a big difference in Detroit’s ability to hire local talent to fill highly skilled labor needs.”

For more information about the Learning Lab, or for a tour, please contact

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