Not As Odd As It Looks: The Japanese Carmaker Giving to Boost U.S. Manufacturing

Last year, the Wall Street Journal published a piece about the resurgence of the manufacturing industry in America. The piece, a dizzying point/counterpoint that came to no real conclusion, offered two views: the skeptics' view that not enough has changed politically or economically to allow for a manufacturing comeback; and the optimists' view, that more competitive labor and energy costs are fueling companies' desire to produce their goods closer to their consumers—noting that the number of factory jobs has started to rise, “edging up by about 600,000 over the past four years to more than 12 million.”

The numbers have remained promising. Over 60,000 new manufacturing jobs were added in 2014 (in 2003 the number was 12,000) and offshoring numbers are on the decline. Among the companies that are bullish on U.S. manufacturing are some of the big Japanese automakers, who've invested heavily in their U.S. car-making operations. In turn, as we've been reporting, the philanthropic arms of these companiesmost notably the Toyota USA Foundationhave become keenly focused on bolstering the skills of U.S. workers. 

Toyota now employs over 30,000 Americans and has 10 manufacturing plants across the U.S. That makes it one of the larger manfacturing employers in the U.S., and through its philanthropyit certainly acts like a major stakeholder in the future of this sector.

At IP, we’ve followed Toyota USA Foundation’s grantmaking work in support of K-12 education, particularly the expansion of STEM-related activities for kids in underserved communities. With over $100 million endowed to enhance the quality of STEM education, Toyota USA is an important funder in the K-12 space.


But this funder also makes grants beyond education, often with an eye on helping Americans rediscover the promise of careers in manufacturing. We'll get to its recent grants in a moment, but first let us underscore an irony we've noted before: The same Japanese carmakers who famously helped decimate the cornerstone of U.S. manufacturing, the auto industry, are now giving away money to help young Americans to believe again in their country's industrial future. 

Related: Hey, Kid: Want to Build Cars When You Grow Up? Another Push for Manufacturing Skills

Over the summer, Toyota USA backed up its faith in the future of American manufacturing with eight grants totaling $5.8 million. According to a press release, funding was directed at efforts to "create and strengthen pathways to manufacturing careers for high school and adult students."

The grants include:
  • $1.5 million to the National Dropout Prevention Network in Clemson, South Carolina, in support of its efforts to introduce 24,000 students in New York City, rural Kentucky and Mississippi to STEM and manufacturing careers through online content and teacher coaching.
  • $1.5 million to Hot Bread Kitchen in New York City to create career opportunities in food manufacturing for highly skilled immigrant and minority women.
  • $1 million to Project Lead the Way in Indianapolis to introduce a hands-on, computer-integrated manufacturing course in forty high schools.
  • $935,000 to the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, for a multidisciplinary graduate program that prepares women for careers in global supply chains and operations.
  • The Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Rockville Centre, New York, which was awarded $441,190 to assist disengaged youth in finding employment through STEM-based manufacturing careers.
  • The Excel Institute in Washington, D.C., which will receive $100,000 to provide career skills, technical education, and job placement to low-income adults with only a high school diploma or GED.
  • 114th Partnership, Inc., in Rockville, Maryland, which will receive $270,000 to increase STEM engagement for 20,000 students through Spark 101's free, career-based case study videos.
  • ReSOURCE: A Nonprofit Community Enterprise, in Burlington, Vermont, which was awarded $100,000 for a program designed to fill the manufacturing skills gap among high school students and recent graduates in the state. 

Related: Two Keys for Having a Shot at Education Funding from the American Honda Foundation