Our Network @ Work

MakerMinded Advanced Manufacturing Program Reaches 6,000 Students in Two Years

Education, Lightweight Materials, Workforce

Preparing students to fill the demand for advanced manufacturing specialists, LIFT’s MakerMinded program provides schools with learning and competition experiences to excite students about 21st century manufacturing careers.

The Need

As manufacturing technology advances, the industry is facing an employment crisis. Current manufacturing employees are retiring and many of the skills required have changed. Students and young adults have an outdated perception of manufacturing jobs and are not pursuing the education or skills training to fill the estimated 3.5 million jobs that the industry will need in the next decade.

While STEM initiatives are growing across the nation, many schools, students, and parents lack awareness and access to these programs, and miss out opportunities to engage in STEM learning early.

A Solution in Progress

Active in seven states—Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia—MakerMinded creates fun learning experiences for middle and high school students. Working directly with students of these ages connects children with STEM at a time when they are beginning to establish long-term interests and make decisions about further education or post-school careers.

Students in Idaho working with LIFT

MakerMinded’s digital platform galvanizes participating students and schools around a student-driven, pro-manufacturing campaign and competition. Students participate in engaging activities and compete with other schools for bragging rights and recognition. Nearly 200 activities are available to participants, including plant tours, coding with maker technology, science and engineering fairs, video game design, and more, and each completed activity awards points that go toward a school’s total.

In the process, MakerMinded teaches students that manufacturing jobs are no longer just about working on the factory floor. The program aims to turn around these common misperceptions, while teaching STEM skills that are critical for our nation’s advanced manufacturing needs and that can earn an average salary that is expected to double over the next 10 years.


Partners in each state include local STEM networks, local school boards and systems, manufacturers’ associations, tech colleges and universities, and other collaboratives all working together to inspire and begin to train the next generation of highly skilled workers for 21st century manufacturing specialties. Grants from other organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Defense Education Program, are expanding the program into new states.

The program addresses key goals for all participants. Schools receive state-of-the-art STEM learning technology to enhance curricula. Funders know that their grants are directly activating students to learn about opportunities in manufacturing. And everyone is working to fill the skills gap and prepare the future worker pipeline with potential employees who are inspired and educated to meet the nation’s most complex defense technological and manufacturing challenges.

Results to Date, Promise for the Future

More than 6,000 students in 500 schools have participated in MakerMinded thus far, and the program looks to expand into more states in the years to come.

"By creating a shared community, educators are creating an ecosystem that links resources and equitable access to STEM experiences. Students and schools are being rewarded through MakerMinded for their innovation and focus on career awareness and exploration, which is helping their students make informed decisions about their future."

Lisa Deck, program manager, education and workforce, IN-MaC, a partner in the Indiana MakerMinded program

"I'm so proud of these students and am excited for their future. I'm confident their energy, passion, and knack for STEM will translate into talented employees as well as remarkable leaders."

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton

LIFT is one of the 14 Manufacturing USA institutes.  The U.S. Department of Defense established LIFT in 2014 and continues to lead and invest in the institute.