Special to the Tribune-Star
Indiana’s 39 accredited colleges and universities will receive a significant boost in improving opportunities for their college graduates to find meaningful in-state employment as a result of $62.7 million in grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., the organization said in press release on Thursday.
For more than a decade through its Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations, the endowment has awarded grants to Indiana colleges and universities to pursue activities that improve the job prospects of college graduates in the state. While progress has been made, particularly through expanded internship opportunities and more robust career placement offices, Indiana college graduates continue to have difficulty finding jobs within the state that are suitable to individuals holding bachelor’s degrees.
“Despite a steady supply of four-year college graduates, Indiana ranks very low among the states in the percentage of its adult working-age population that has a bachelor’s degree, and the state’s average per capita income ranking also is unacceptable,” said Sara B. Cobb, the endowment’s vice president for education. “The endowment has become increasingly concerned about the implications of these statistics and their potential impact on the state’s future prosperity.”
In 2011 the endowment provided a grant to the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership Foundation to research the employment situation. That foundation commissioned a research study from Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.
“The Battelle research found that Indiana lags the nation in the availability of high-skilled jobs and that, with a few key exceptions, we’re adding bachelor’s degree jobs in many important industry clusters at a slower pace than the rest of the country,” said David Johnson, that foundation’s president and CEO. “The study also noted that too many graduates do not have the required majors or other credentials for the high-skilled jobs that are available, and it suggested actions that colleges and universities could take to prepare and connect their graduates better to high-skilled jobs and help increase the state’s demand for educated workers.”
In 2012, the endowment provided planning grants to Indiana colleges and universities that enabled them to review Battelle’s findings, study the problem from the perspective of each institution’s mission and context, understand more deeply the experiences of their graduates in seeking employment in Indiana, and develop school-specific strategies to address the initiative’s aim. Many schools also used the planning period to research best practices at peer institutions around the state and country.
“The endowment has seen firsthand that colleges and universities have the ability and desire to help improve the job prospects of college graduates in Indiana, and we wanted to give them the resources to be even more strategic and ambitious,” added Cobb.
All 39 colleges and universities submitted proposals that the foundation will fund. Common strategies include: developing new courses, certificates, credentials and degrees; beginning more deliberate career counseling for all students during their freshman year rather than waiting until their junior or senior years; offering more internship and co-op opportunities; and strengthening efforts to promote entrepreneurship and technology transfer.