Kentucky State University students could be the brains behind the cars of the future.
The university announced a partnership Tuesday with Toyota to help more students earn degrees in engineering.
Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, presented KSU President Mary Sias with a $375,000 check to be used for scholarships aimed toward minority candidates.
“I think we’ll all agree, partnerships work,” said James, a former member of the KSU Board of Regents.
He said this partnership would create a pathway for students to become engineers and have the chance to work at Toyota.
The grant will sponsor the five-year scholarship program in which students will have the opportunity to work with various Toyota mentors, be eligible for co-op and employment opportunities as well as internships at the Georgetown plant and will present the opportunity for students to enter a full-time job upon graduation.
Beginning next fall, KSU will supply Toyota with up to five engineering candidates who are incoming freshmen with high achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The selected students will receive full scholarships, the first three years at KSU on a pre-engineering curriculum and the last two years at the University of Kentucky.
After the five-year period, students will have received an undergraduate degree from KSU and an engineering degree from UK.
James said while the check is an important aspect, the partnership will be beneficial to the students, school, company and the community.
“We also believe it’s a win for the community,” James said. “Giving back to the communities where we live and do business is a part of who we are at Toyota, where our philanthropy is driven our belief that doing good is about more than just writing checks.”
By 2018, Sias said, the U.S. Department of Labor has projected there will be more than 1.2 million job openings in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.
“We have come up with a solution to produce more students in engineering,” Sias said.
Sias said she hopes KSU graduates will become the innovators of new cars they will one day drive.
“At KSU we’ve always been about history making, this is history making for the both of us,” she said.
Sias said the university is excited about the partnership and is looking forward to working with Toyota to help create more engineers.
“We appreciate your commitment,” she said.
James said his company is also excited about the partnership and progress that can be made.
“This check is just the beginning,” he said. “But I hope we can all agree, it’s a very good start.”