Highmark Supports AIM Program with $100,000 Grant

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield recently provided a $100,000 grant to the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. The grant supports the lab’s Advancing Inclusive Manufacturing (AIM) Program for Wounded Warriors.

The AIM Program will aid in the transition of rehabilitating active-duty wounded warriors and rehabilitating veterans to potential careers in machining. Created by HERL director Dr. Rory Cooper and HERL education and outreach project director Mary Goldberg, the program takes advantage of HERL’s advanced machine shop and staff expertise to teach wounded warriors the basics of machining by exposing them to the design and development of assistive technologies that will allow veterans and all people with disabilities to live more independently. 

 All participants will complete a formal training program that will result in key competencies that are reflected on the NIMS Machining Level 1 exam.  The participants will also complete an on-the-job training (OJT) experience at local companies, where a potential long-term, full-time placement could be secured.

 “Highmark’s grant to the Advancing Inclusive Manufacturing Program is part of the company’s longstanding history of supporting the military, veterans and the disabilities community,” Evan Frazier, Highmark’s senior vice president of community affairs. “It’s our hope that these efforts will help to assist our service men and women find career opportunities that will lead to a greater future.”

Dr. Cooper agrees. “The Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology and the Human Engineering Research Laboratories have a rich history in engineering and technical education. Highmark’s generous donation added to our strong commitment and expertise in working with veterans with disabilities, putting us in the position to build and grow the AIM program as a national model.”

The Highmark grant will also support further program efforts towards sustainability including an accreditation process, allowing it to be recognized by agencies like VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation so that in the future, veterans and people with disabilities will receive tuition assistance to participate in the program.  Program curricula, materials, and processes will be archived and shared to enable replication at other facilities with HERL’s fabrication capabilities. 

The AIM Program is set to begin in Fall 2013. There are no prerequisites for the program, however, preference will be given to those with disabilities who have an interest in a career in machining, fabrication, engineering/engineering technology, assistive technology, rehabilitation and/or prosthetics. Interested veterans should apply by August 2 by visiting www.qolt.pitt.edu/veterans