Kurt Verlin
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Toyota Invests $1.7 Million in STEM Diversification

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Toyota Minority STEM Scholarship Graphic
Photo: Toyota Motor North America

Toyota is investing $1.7 million and teaming up with three Kentucky colleges to create a new scholarship program that will increase engineering opportunities for underrepresented students.

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The scholarship will provide female and minority students full rides to the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Bluegrass Community & Technical College. A total of 35 students will be selected for the scholarships over the course of five years, starting this fall.

That number — 35 — is also the number of years that Toyota has operated out of Kentucky. “Toyota has been a long-time partner of UK since locating in Kentucky nearly 35 years ago,” said Rudolph Buchheit, dean of UK College of Engineering. “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.”

The new program includes more than just tuition money. For example, students going to UK and UofL, it also includes the necessary resources to earn an engineering degree. All students will also receive mentorship by Toyota engineers and get the opportunity to participate in co-ops paying up to $21 per hour.

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This investment is just the latest example of Toyota’s commitment to bolstering the STEM pipeline. In 2015, it pledged $1.9 million in grants to educational programs focused on teaching K-12 students the essentials of STEM fields. It 2018, it invested $2 million in creating a new STEM school in West Dallas. And last year, it expanded its technician certification program to 36 locations in the United States.

This time, however, the automaker is aiming for STEM diversification instead of just expansion. According to the National Science Foundation, the STEM workforce is 89 percent white and 72 percent male, compared to just 78 percent white and 53 percent male for the overall workforce. Thirty-five scholarships won’t change that, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“There is a critical shortage of women and minorities in the engineering workforce,” said Emmanuel Collins, dean of the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering. “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.”