LIFT Awarded $200,000 Grant From The Skillman Foundation Supporting New Opportunities for Detroit Youth to Gain Critical Advanced Manufacturing Skills

Funds will support students going through LIFT Learning Lab and world-class manufacturing curriculum to prepare multi-skilled technicians

DETROIT (August 29, 2019) — LIFT – Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, a Detroit-based national manufacturing innovation institute operated by the American Lightweight Materials Innovation Institute (ALMMII), today announced that it has received a $200,000 grant from The Skillman Foundation to 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 state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility.

The grant will provide Detroit youth with exposure to diverse career pathways in the advanced manufacturing sector through the launch of a LIFT Advanced Manufacturing academic pathway within University Prep Science & Math High School that connects in-school academics with daily experience in the Learning Lab. The program also engages youth across the city who are not enrolled in the pathway via other exposure and immersion opportunities through partnerships with additional schools and community-based organizations.

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

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, multimedia and project-based learning built around real industry challenges.

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

The remainder of the grant will support launching on-site immersion activities to introduce more middle and high school students to IGNITE and its project-based learning through partnerships with additional schools and school districts as well as community organizations that will serve an additional 100-200 youth.

Among the learning spaces in the Learning Lab in LIFT’s Detroit facility are the Fundamental Manufacturing Skills Development Lab, CNC Operations and Welding Technician Training Centers, and Smart Factory lab.

“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, Education and Workforce Development, 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.”

“Rigorous academic and project-based learning opportunities are important for building young people’s skills and experience as they prepare for college and career,” said Tonya Allen, President & CEO of The Skillman Foundation. “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.”

“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,” said Mark Ornstein, CEO of University Prep Schools.

Ron Hall, a Skillman Foundation board member and president & CEO of Bridgewater Interiors LLC, one of the nation’s largest minority-owned Tier I automotive supplier 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.”

“We are grateful to The Skillman Foundation for supporting this important opportunity Detroit students,” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, LIFT. “We remain committed to providing them with the opportunities and pathways theydeserve, and to helping move skilled workers into the U.S. manufacturing base.”

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

LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), is a Detroit-based, public-private partnership committed to the development and deployment of advanced lightweight material manufacturing technologies, and implementing education and training initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. LIFT is one of the founding institutes of Manufacturing USA, and is funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. Visit or follow on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.

Joe Steele