Toyota has donated the Quality and Production Engineering Laboratory on its campus in Erlanger, Kentucky, to create a new STEAM-based education center.
The new school, named Ignite Institute at Roebling Innovation Center, will be owned and operated by Boone County Schools, which has been awarded a $6.8 million Work Ready Skills initiative grant from the state to adapt the Toyota office and engineering lab into a learning facility.
Toyota announced plans in 2014 to close its Erlanger facility as part of a consolidation of its North American headquarters in Texas. Workers have been relocated to the company’s other locations, including its manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, and its final team member groups are scheduled to move from the lab building by the end of 2017.
“Since announcing the transition from Erlanger, we collaborated with civic, business and education leaders on how we could best serve the region," said Mike Goss, general manager, Toyota Social Innovation, in a release announcing the donation. “We hope to create a lasting positive impact through this school, helping prepare students for the next generation of jobs.”
The goal of the new facility will be to create more learning opportunities in STEAM, or science technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, subject areas; to fill the workforce pipeline with creative and educated workers for the future; and to make the region more attractive for companies in high-value industries.
The new school is expected to serve up to 1,000 high school students, starting in the 2019-2020 school year. It will operate as a Boone County District of Innovation School of Choice. Admission will be determined on a first-come, first served basis through a formal application process and will not be based on GPA. Organizers hope to assemble a board of advisors of business and community leaders and to create a private foundation to fund scholarships, student transportation needs and other extraordinary expenses.
“The 21st century demands workers who can think creatively, solve problems and adapt quickly to change,” said Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky’s education commissioner. “The Ignite Institute at Roebling Innovation Center will give students an incredible opportunity to learn and hone these critical skills, which will ensure their future success and provide our business community with highly sought after employees who will fuel our Commonwealth’s economy.”
The Quality and Engineering Laboratory facility is a 183,000-square-foot, two-story building with expansive lab and engineering workspace, high bay equipment areas, office spaces and high ceilings to accommodate robotics and automation. The gift also includes roughly 22 acres and adjacent parking lots.