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Toyota brings $2M STEM program to North Carolina

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Toyota USA Foundation has awarded $2 million in grant funding for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs in two North Carolina counties.

The grants and collaboration with the Randolph and Guilford county school systems are part of Toyota’s Driving Possibilities initiative.  

Driving Possibilities focuses on PreK-12 education to provide students with access to rewarding careers, including opportunities in the auto industry, according to a news release from Toyota. The long-term initiative aims to close educational gaps for students through innovative, hands-on STEM programming while addressing the essential needs of students and families, Toyota said. The foundation launched Driving Possibilities in 2022.    

Toyota told Repairer Driven News the focus of Driving Possibilities is supporting communities near its operations including employees serving as volunteers at the local schools. Randolph and Guilford counties were chosen because of their proximity to the future site of Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina.

“Our goal is to increase awareness of future STEM careers while helping build sustainable programs in the communities where our team members live and work,” said Tellis Bethel, Toyota group vice president of social innovation, in the release. “With $2 million in the first year, we are excited to expand Driving Possibilities here in North Carolina, home to our first battery plant in North America.”  

The work in North Carolina will center on identifying school feeder patterns and providing project-based, hands-on STEM learning programs, Toyota said. The program will also include professional and leadership development for educators, community engagement, and family support like after-school programming.      

“The Driving Possibilities framework provides a holistic approach to ensure all children have equal access to opportunities and a pathway to high-growth careers,” said Sean Suggs, president of Toyota North Carolina, in the release. “In collaboration with community partners and businesses, we are focusing resources inside and outside the classroom to help students overcome barriers.”   

 North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the state is “excited for Toyota’s partnership and investment in communities across North Carolina.”

“These grants will help enhance the STEM education of students in Randolph and Guilford counties and prepare them to lead successful careers in a variety of fields, including our state’s thriving auto industry,” he said.

North Carolina is the seventh site to launch programming based on more than 60 years of active support in communities across the U.S. and builds off the successful model in West Dallas, according to the release.

“The Randolph County School System is excited about the opportunity to enter into a partnership with Toyota focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education,” said Stephen Gainey, Randolph County Schools Superintendent, in the release. “Without a doubt, this opportunity will be great for our students through its provision of hands-on and problem-based learning experiences.  I look forward to the future as this partnership between the Randolph County School System and Toyota grows and creates special educational opportunities for our students.  Our school system continues to receive a high level of support from numerous community partners.  Thus, I am very excited to add Toyota to our group of community partners.”

Whitney Oakley, Guilford County Schools superintendent, said the school system is “thrilled to join Toyota in building career pathways for our students.”

“Toyota’s Driving Possibilities program will build our students’ capacity to thrive in STEM-related careers and, by growing a qualified workforce locally, will help boost our economy,” she said. “I hope this partnership inspires other businesses and government officials to make the necessary investments to make North Carolina the number one state for education so all North Carolinians can participate and reap the benefits of a global economy.” 

This month, Enterprise Mobility’s Collision Engineering Program (CEP) will begin at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, North Carolina — the first CEP offering in the state and the Southeast.

Founded by the Enterprise Mobility Foundation and Ranken Technical College, the goal of CEP is to help fill the more than 110,000 collision technician job openings expected through 2027 through a two-year associate degree model. Students rotate between classroom instruction and a paid apprenticeship in a collision repair facility.

The program begins with the fall semester. The first eight weeks will be the CEP model and the next will be the model that Sandhills already has. Enrollment opens April 8.


Featured image: A student at Jackson Middle School in Guilford County, North Carolina. (Credit: Toyota)

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