Toy Foundation Talent Pipeline Program Connects Budding Talent with Industry Leaders

luxi locks toy foundation talent pipeline program projectJune 4, 2024 | The Toy Foundation’s (TTF) Talent Pipeline program completed its spring semester case study competition with the University of Maryland (UofM) where a diverse cohort of students presented top-quality product concepts in front of a judging panel of toy industry leaders. The winning presentation, LuxiLocks, wowed the panel as a gender-neutral styling doll designed to help children embrace their identity and diversity through hair play and learning.

Occurring every fall and spring semester, the case study competition connects industry professionals with a new group of college and university students representing a variety of academic focuses and personal backgrounds. It is an extracurricular activity that students opt to participate in to receive mentorship and build relationships with leaders from small, medium, and large toy companies as they learn about the industry and see how their degree directly connects to potential job opportunities.

“The Talent Pipeline Program brings industry leaders together from all different companies to be part of something that is more important than any one of our companies,” said Mason Williams, global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Mattel, Inc. “It’s something we’re proud of as a company, and for me personally, it has left an indelible impression.”

toy foundation talent pipeline program at toy fairThe case study competition asked students to present a unique and inclusive product design, explain how it would be developed, and come up with a launch strategy. Six student teams met throughout the semester to create and mold their ideas under the mentorship of Kathleen Campisano at Beacon Media Group, Aaron Muderick at Crazy Aaron’s, Jay Dotson at Jazwares, Mason Williams at Mattel, Andy Quartin at Thames & Kosmos, Manny Grace at The Walt Disney Company, and Clare Cannon at Women in Toys, among others. As a result, six well-thought and innovative product concepts were presented and the students learned about the many facets of the toy industry, creating value for the students, professionals, and companies involved.

“I never thought about applying data analytics to toys. Connecting creativity to data opened a new way of thinking for me,” shared a UofM student majoring in computer science.

In addition, the students learned about the educational, developmental, and physical benefits that play provides — which can be applied to any career path. One UofM student majoring in education shared, “This project got me really excited about how play should tie into curriculum-building.”

Winner LuxiLocks was designed by three students majoring in public policy, government and politics, and psychology. Their unique skillsets aided the development of a tabletop styling doll that reflects the diversity of our society and supports children’slearning and appreciation of the beauty of differences. It is designed with a gender-neutral face structure, four skin tone options, and eight wig attachments, plus provides instructional videos for children and families to learn different hairstyling techniques.

Since its launch in 2022, the Talent Pipeline Program has engaged more than 250 college and university students and 50 industry professionals to build awareness and excitement about careers in the toy industry. It has generated seven internship or full-time employment offers. TTF is also working on a plan with UofM that will create an industry-validated degree program at their Robert H. Smith School of Business. Institutional leaders from The Toy Association™ and UofM recently met to discuss what the curriculum and applied learning components of the program should include to yield maximum value.

To learn more about the Talent Pipeline Program, get involved personally, or get your executives and associates involved, visit or contact TTF staff.