LIFT Promotes Detroit Native to Lead Institute Talent Development Programs

LIFT, the Detroit-based national manufacturing innovation institute, recently announced that the promotion of Phaedra Wainaina to Director of Education and Workforce Development to lead the institute’s Learning Innovations For Tomorrow talent programming.

In this role, Wainaina’s focus is on growing LIFT’s current talent initiatives to more students in Detroit and across the country, while expanding the institute’s curricula into more forward-looking areas, including smarter manufacturing – the connection of materials research, manufacturing processes and virtual systems. She previously served as Director of Education and Workforce Programs at LIFT.


Among LIFT’s core talent development programs are:

  • IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing – A three-year foundational competency-based curriculum for the “multi-skilled technician” needed in today’s workplace. introducing students to advanced manufacturing materials, processes and systems.
  • Operation Next – An innovative training and credentialing program that provides opportunities for active-duty soldiers within their last six months of service, national guard and reserve members – and their spouses – to earn one or more nationally portable, standards based, industry recognized credentials in high demand manufacturing fields.


Wainaina joined LIFT in September 2021, bringing nearly a decade of experience within local and state workforce development ecosystems with her. She previously served as the Executive Director of two Detroit-area nonprofits and has led advocacy and stakeholder engagement strategies to directly impact the state’s workforce development sector. Wainaina is a proud alumnus of the Detroit Workforce Leadership Academy Class of 2020, one of several Aspen Institute Workforce Leadership Academies in localities across North America.


“LIFT has been the leader among the manufacturing innovation institutes as it relates to talent development, and Phaedra will help us continue that leadership,” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, LIFT. “Talent development is absolutely core to our mission. We work to marry our talent development programs with our technology development programs to ensure that students are prepared to succeed in their careers and industry has a U.S.-based workforce ready for the future.”


Wainaina currently serves as an advisory board member for Renaissance High School of Detroit, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy of Detroit, and Horizons Upward Bound of Bloomfield. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and currently serves with the Detroit Alumnae Chapter. 


Born and educated in Detroit, she returned to live in the city in 2014 after the completion of her undergraduate studies. Wainaina earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Afro-American and African studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a Juris Doctor from Wayne State University Law School.  She currently lives and works in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood.

Visit or follow on LinkedIn at LIFT or on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.



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