WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. – A major auto investment is coming to Metro Detroit; this time, we aren’t talking about the Big Three.
It was a decade ago Toyota built the R and D Center in Saline, away from everything, out in the corn fields.
They did it for a specific reason which was to be ready to expand and also to be able to hold a day like Thursday unencumbered.
The world’s second-largest automaker will spend $50 million on a new battery lab and R and D Center to try and figure out the best way forward with electrification.
Toyota North America’s Technical Resources Chief Jeff Makarewicz told Local 4 they want significant improvements.
“Cost reduction, quality improvements, range enhancement, said Makarewicz. “All of those are components.”
A big problem looms, though, as there aren’t enough highly skilled engineers.
“It’s projected over the next 10 years that we’re going to produce three and a half million STEM jobs, and two million are projected to go unfilled,” Makarewicz said. “It is incumbent on us to develop the next generation of STEM professionals.”
Toyota is also giving $10 million to Eastern Michigan University with a program called Driving Possibilities to include school districts like Lincoln Consolidated and Ypsilanti.
Ryan Gildersleeve is EMU’s education college dean.
“We’re establishing a new institute for STEM Education Outreach and Workforce Development that will be housed at EMU but will serve and be driven by steering committees and advisory committees built from the communities, including the school districts and school leaders themselves,” said Gildersleeve.
Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross admits there were STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) gaps in Ypsilanti’s curriculum.
“Our students right now, we know they have so much potential,” said Zachery-Ross. “We know that they are extremely bright and intelligent, and we know all we need is the access.”
The grants they announced Thursday were only for a couple of years, but the school districts hope they can stretch the dollars and perhaps even the program so they can make it five years and even longer so they can make sure they keep supplying that pipeline with that good STEM stem talent.
The object of this program is to bolster the lower grade level STEM programs with hands-on training.
The idea is to make sure certain students are ready when they get to college to succeed so they can graduate and move to the automakers with the needed skills.