LIFT Network Awards Nearly $2.5M to Regional Colleges and Universities via its Digital Skills Accelerator Fund


Grants will catalyze the development and expansion of non-degree and academic degree credentialing programs to support the future of manufacturing and advanced industry in the South Bend – Elkhart region.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Jun. 2, 2021) — Grants have been awarded to eight regional colleges and universities for new programs designed to help the South Bend – Elkhart region advance its current and future highly-skilled workforce. These awards, totaling $2.465 million, will support learning and programs designed to equip the region’s workforce to thrive in the digital age of industry. The initiatives span a diverse set of programs and activities that include flexible non-degree programs and industry-recognized certifications, as well as formal two-year and four-year degree programs of study in data science and other in-demand fields.

The awards stem from the LIFT Network’s Digital Skills Accelerator Fund, which is facilitated by the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership and the University of Notre Dame. The LIFT Network is a regional consortium of colleges and non-profits, led by the University of Notre Dame and the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership. Funding to catalyze the network is made possible by a $42.4 million Lilly Endowment Inc. grant to the University of Notre Dame, awarded in 2019.

“We’re excited to welcome these eight new partners into the LIFT Network, and we look forward to the great things they will accomplish with this support from the Digital Skills Accelerator Fund,” said Dr. Tom Fuja, faculty director of Notre Dame’s iNDustry Labs, the University entity that supports the LIFT Network. “These programs will result in more than 2,000 new credentials and will engage a broad swath of the community – including K-12 students, incumbent workers, and current undergraduate students – all aligned with the skills required in the growing digital economy.”

Grant awards were made in two phases. Phase I planning grants were awarded at $50,000 per institution in August 2020 and helped give regional higher education institutions the capacity to form internal and regional working groups to support proposal development. In November 2020, a workshop was held for the institutions to share prospective plans and foster collaboration and coordination among partners. Institutions then submitted Phase II proposals in December 2020. Following the anticipated launch of projects during the summer of 2021, the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership and iNDustry Labs plan to regularly convene stakeholders to strengthen coordination as it relates to industry engagement and partnership development.

“Talent is an essential factor to strengthen our advanced industries and traded sectors and build a sustainable innovation-driven economy,” said, Dr. Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and board chair of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership. “These innovative programs and critical investments being made by colleges and universities across the region bring a highly focused effort to equipping our future workforce with the information and skills needed to succeed in careers of the future.”

Highlights of the Phase II funding and activities that will result from these awards are summarized below. Further details, program points of contact and additional activities within each funded project may be found here.

  • Ancilla College will expand its AncillaWorks platform – A student-facing work-and-learn program – to include incumbent, adult workers who will be trained within the industry spaces of business analytics, logistics and supply chain. For this effort, Ancilla has been awarded a $100,000 Phase II grant.
  • Bethel University will launch a Digital Workforce Transformation Program that will develop talent aligned with mechanical engineering, information technology and data analytics via academic bootcamps and the modernization of the University’s engineering programs. Bethel has been awarded a $230,000 Phase II grant for this initiative.
  • Goshen College will develop a Digital Skills Accelerator Program that will build future and current workforce pipelines focused on business and information technology disciplines. They will also develop a new Information and Business Technology undergraduate degree program. For these initiatives, Goshen College has been awarded a $400,000 Phase II grant.
  • Holy Cross College will establish a new Computer Science undergraduate minor within Holy Cross College and offer non-degree certificate coding programs for non-computer science minors to incumbent and adult workers. For these programs, Holy Cross has been awarded a $200,000 Phase II grant.
  • Indiana University South Bend (IU South Bend) will develop a Digital Skills Pipeline Project to advance a K-12 STEM Summer Academy in collaboration with the Purdue Polytechnic Institute and a career exploration in healthcare technology targeting incumbent and non-incumbent workers. IUSB has been awarded a $350,000 Phase II grant for these initiatives.
  • Ivy Tech Community College, South Bend – Elkhart will expand and purchase new advanced manufacturing/industry 4.0-enabling training technology to be housed within the Ivy Tech Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Automation. Ivy Tech has been awarded a $300,000 Phase II grant to support this initiative.
  • Purdue Polytechnic Institute, South Bend will develop an Industry 4.0 Industry Advancement Certification and an industry-aligned incumbent worker training initiative, including the purchase of a LEAN training simulator and module sets that will facilitate key manufacturing and Industry 4.0 engineering and production efficiency competencies. For these initiatives, Purdue Polytechnic Institute has been awarded a $200,000 Phase II grant.
  • Saint Mary’s College will develop an Industry Credentialing Lab that will support talent development by creating a pipeline of skill-credentialed, industry-ready graduates within the South Bend – Elkhart regional workforce who will earn credentials alongside a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree available to students of every major and minor.  For these programs, Saint Mary’s has been awarded a $285,000 Phase II grant.


About Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network
The Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network was established to formalize the collaborative opportunities among the South Bend – Elkhart region’s innovation, R&D, workforce training, and educational assets to provide a comprehensive portfolio of cutting-edge resources to support advancement in the region’s key industrial sectors. Collectively these efforts will support the South Bend – Elkhart region through the transformation to an increasingly digital and automated future, enhancing the current manufacturing base with new business models, technologies and tailored workforce training programs while accelerating new high-tech sector growth in the region. For more information about the LIFT Network, visit

LIFT Network and the associated iNDustry Labs at Notre Dame were catalyzed by a $42.4 million grant awarded to the University of Notre Dame in 2019 from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant supports Notre Dame’s partnership with the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership in establishing and advancing the LIFT Network.

About South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership
The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership is a collaboration of the economic development partners from 47 smart connected communities in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan. The Regional Partnership focuses on a long-term systemic approach to advance the region’s economy by aligning the efforts of various stakeholders around five key areas: Educating a world-class WORKFORCE, Recruiting and retaining great TALENT, Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES, Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities and Helping ENTREPRENEURS thrive. The Regional Partnership seeks to unify and collaborate so that together, the communities across the region to work together to achieve what cannot be done individually. For more information about the Regional Partnership, visit

Media Contacts
Leighton Johnson
South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership

Dr. Thomas Fuja
Faculty Director
iNDustry Labs, University of Notre Dame