LIFT Selected to Join New Project to Advance Racial Equity in Manufacturing

Detroit-based national manufacturing innovation institute joins a cohort of eight other leading Midwest workforce organizations to advance a racially inclusive future for manufacturing as the economy recovers

DETROIT — LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute, announced today that it will join a new national project led by The Century Foundation (TCF), the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), and seven other urban workforce development organizations concentrated in the Midwest to strategize solutions to the U.S. manufacturing sector’s national recruitment challenges, deepen relationships between employers and communities, and develop credential-based training programs to forge a more racially inclusive future for manufacturing. The group was selected through a competitive process and funded by Lumina Foundation.

“We are pleased to represent the Southeast Michigan area, our manufacturers, fellow manufacturing innovation institutes, and the broader community in this important national effort,” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director at LIFT. “It is critical that we ensure racial equity in how we build the future of work in manufacturing here and around the country. We are eager to share our expertise and learn from the other organizations on how to best recruit, train, and ensure the success of people of color in manufacturing.”

The coalition launches its effort at a pivotal time for U.S. manufacturing and the nation as a whole. As the country’s manufacturing capacity recently shifted to produce millions of pieces of medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight and recover from a deadly pandemic, COVID-19 has brought renewed attention to the need for a strong U.S. manufacturing sector. Pre-pandemic estimates indicated that the United States needed an additional 2.4 million manufacturing workers over the next decade.

With unemployment rates at record levels, especially for Black and Latino workers, and a renewed focus on addressing systemic racism throughout our society–including employment–U.S. manufacturing’s rebirth presents a critical opportunity to open the sector’s good paying jobs to more workers of color.

“We are seeing three historic trends converge at once,” says Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at TCF and one of the organizers of the coalition. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a need for skilled manufacturing workers to respond to the crisis, and highlighted the importance of employer-focused, credential-based training. The resulting recession has created historic levels of unemployment, leaving half of Black workers without work. And a long overdue reckoning on racial inequality has underscored the urgent need to improve access to jobs that pay well and provide good benefits. Our coalition will work at the intersection of these trends to help shape a more inclusive future of work for manufacturing.”

“The manufacturing sector’s long legacy of creating jobs that offer pathways to the middle class for millions of American families will be crucial to a thriving 21st century economy that works for everyone,” says Lee Wellington, Executive Director at UMA and co-organizer of the coalition. “We are proud to launch this initiative in collaboration with The Century Foundation and these eight incredible partners to realize the promise of an inclusive manufacturing sector and a more equitable future of work. To build a manufacturing sector that’s advancing equity in our communities, we need to dig deeply into the ecosystems that our place-based workforce partners have cultivated — whether it be with public schools, credentialing programs, faith-informed organizations, industry partners, or other community-based groups. Through our engagement with this cohort, we will lean into partnerships that have been forged and partnerships that have not yet been built to create a more inclusive and resilient manufacturing sector.”

As part of the Industry and Inclusion 4.0 cohort, LIFT will work with TCF, UMA, and seven other Midwest-based organizations Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC; Chicago/Baltimore), MAGNET (Cleveland), Manufacturing Renaissance (Chicago), Menomonee Valley Partners (MVP; Milwaukee), MxD (Chicago), Northland Workforce Training Center (Buffalo), and WRTP/BIG STEP (Milwaukee). The project is supported by Lumina Foundation, a national philanthropy focused on equity and educational attainment and based in Indianapolis.

LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is the Detroit-based, public-private partnership between the Department of Defense, industry and academia, committed to the development and deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies, and implementing talent development initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. LIFT funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. Visit or follow on LinkedIn at LIFT or on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.