Early Education     K-12    

Closing the STEM skills gap to create new possibilities for kids

Advocates are addressing systemic educational barriers

Closing the STEM skills gap to create new possibilities for kids

Over the next decade, it’s projected that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing and STEM-related jobs will be available, yet 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to a skills gap, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Advocates are addressing systemic educational barriers that impact student success in order to fill this skills gap and expand opportunities for young people.

That’s the idea behind Driving Possibilities, a $110 million STEM career readiness and community engagement initiative of the Toyota USA Foundation. Its unique approach brings industry and academia together, while coordinating nonprofit services that address barriers and societal disparities—all to prepare youth for successful futures.

“From machine learning and connected technologies to autonomous vehicles and electrification, the career opportunities of tomorrow will be boundless for those with STEM skills. During this time of rapid industry advancement, it’s more important than ever to give all young people an equal opportunity to access rewarding careers in high-growth industries tomorrow,” says Colleen Casey, executive director, Driving Possibilities.

With the goal of increasing student awareness, excitement and interest in STEM learning, the multi-pronged approach of Driving Possibilities includes innovative, hands-on STEM programming from pre-K to 12th grade levels, professional and leadership development for teachers, and industry exposure and mentorship opportunities for students. The program also addresses students’ essential needs to ensure they have the food, transportation, mental health services, after-school programming and early intervention literacy support they need to succeed.

This long-term initiative is already making a huge impact for thousands of families in such high-need locations near Toyota’s operations in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Alabama. And while the program looks a little different in each location because it is based on the unique needs of each community, the mission remains the same: to level the playing field for students facing educational barriers. To learn more, visit toyotaeffect.com.

“Young people are tomorrow’s problem-solvers, makers and innovators. But they can face many roadblocks on their journey. Listening to what students need and then working within their communities to come up with solutions, will contribute to thriving communities, stronger local economies and limitless possibilities for all,” says Casey.


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