PRINCETON - Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana Inc. in Princeton is partnering with Vincennes University and WorkOne Southwest to help grow the number of Hoosiers with a high school equivalency credential. The automaker is awarding a $60,000 grant to cover the cost of test fees and services provided by VU. Ashley Chatham, corporate communications manager for Toyota Indiana, says the funding will benefit about 200 people, but the partners hope to be able to make a bigger impact in the future.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Chatham says the program began from conversations between TMMI and WorkOne a few years ago. 

"We saw the gap and saw an opportunity to create a program that we can now say works," said Chatham. "We thought like it was a smart investment and a way to support not only our current workforce needs here at Toyota, but more importantly, we saw the opportunity to really support the community in a very meaningful way."

Toyota says there are about 476,000 Hoosiers without a high school diploma, including thousands in southwest Indiana. The funding from Toyota will support test fee waivers for qualifying students in the region who are looking to take the high school equivalency exam. Chatham says the cost of the exam, about $90, is often a major barrier for residents attempting to get their HSE.

The funding will also support enhancements to the VU Adult Basic Education website to create course awareness, as well as classroom video conferencing, equipment for students with transportation barriers, and an annual HSE graduation ceremony.

Chatham says the partners are now having conversations on how to grow the program and its impact.

The program will begin later this month with classes at two locations in Gibson County and five locations in Vanderburgh County. The program will be open to anyone in the southwest Indiana region.