Ford Motor Co., along with the United Auto Workers, is investing nearly $500,000 to start career academies in four Detroit schools that will help train 1,400 students in the engineering, manufacturing and information technology fields.

Starting in the fall of 2015, the Detroit Leadership Academy; the Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men; the Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody; and the Osborn Collegiate Academy of Math, Science & Technology will all be used to help Ford teach students the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The academy students attend their regular high school. But instead of staying in general classes, they spend most of their day working on focused, hands-on projects related to their future jobs.

“It really helps bring relevance to their learning,” Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford next generation learning, said in an interview. “Students won’t be lectured to; teachers will be facilitators of these projects.”

The academies are part of Ford’s Next Generation Learning initiative, which it founded in 2006 to provide financial support, coaching, mentoring and technical support to 20 communities in the U.S.

Once final agreements are in place, Ford said the Detroit schools will have the opportunity to join the Powered by Ford STEM Academy network, where they will have access to a range of support, including student scholarships, equipment, mentors for student projects and professional development for teachers. Among its areas of support, Ford lets the teachers tour its assembly plants so they have a better sense for what technical skills students may need.

Ford currently has four academies in three locations: Utica, Michigan, Volusia County, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky.

When the Detroit academies are added, the network will serve 2,800 students. By 2020, Ford expects to have 20 academies serving 7,000 students in cities where the company has assembly plants, as well as elsewhere in the U.S.

The hope is that most of the students will get jobs in one of the STEM fields, and could potentially become future Ford employees.

“We’re facing a shortage and we need this new generation to be ready to fill high-skilled jobs,” Carrier said.

Carrier said the academy program is built as an homage to the company’s founder, Henry Ford.

“He believed it was important to learn by doing,” she said. “It’s our legacy.”

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