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More Grads Could Stay Locally With Grant

December 19th, 2013

News Coverage:

More Grads Could Stay Locally With Grant

Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:45 pm

By Eric Seaman, eseaman@wabashplaindealer.com

Less than two weeks after distributing $62.7 million in grants to Indiana colleges, the Lilly Endowment has supplied the northeast Indiana region more assistance to help boost its economy.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, a partnership of public and private institutions in the 10-county region, and Community Partnership, Inc., a branch of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, received a $375,000 grant “to improve the alignment of education programs offered at area colleges and universities with the needs of employers,” according to a news release from the Regional Partnership.

On Dec. 6, 39 Hoosier colleges and universities, including Manchester and Huntington universities, received funding from the Endowment, a private, Indianapolis-based charitable organization, to help graduates find employment in Indiana.

“When the (Lilly Endowment) first released their proposal in 2012, they had a hard cap for some schools,” Regional Partnership Vice President of Regional Initiatives Katy Silliman told the Plain Dealer on Thursday about the first grant. “However, they had additional funding for creative collaborations between schools.

“We had quite a few of the universities come to us and said, ‘How can we collaborate together? Let’s get a plan together.’”

The teamwork paid off with their proposal, which includes three key assets:

• The creation of an employer database that will track the skills, education and training needs of local employers that schools in northeast Indiana can use to develop or refine programs

• Stronger connections between regional businesses, colleges and universities through things such as internships, training programs and adjunct facility positions

• An educational asset map and program analysis that will determine the gaps between what schools offer and what employers need

“We think that the real key to successfully help students get the skills they need and to stay in the region is to make connections between students and companies,” Silliman said. “That’s the overarching focus of our work.”

The efforts from the grant will be carried out through the Big Goal Collaborative, a group of regional talent development enthusiasts.

However, Community Partnerships, Inc., which will be the fiscal sponsor, will receive the grant check and will provide fiscal oversight of it, but don’t have a full-time staff to operate it, which the Regional Partnership has offered to do.

Collaborative Director Ryan Twiss and Community Partnership Board Chair Reed Silliman see the grant as an opportunity to bolster the region’s economy and labor force.

“By engaging and connecting northeast Indiana employers and post-secondary educators, we can ensure that our institutions play a direct and active role in growing the number and quality of jobs in the region,” Twiss said.

“This grant from the Lilly Endowment shows strong support for the work being undertaken in northeast Indiana to transform our workforce and economy,” Reed Silliman added. “We are honored for the opportunity to be a leader in these efforts.”

Katy Silliman believes it couldn’t have been possible without the local universities stepping up.

“This grant wouldn’t have been realized with the strong leadership of the universities that came forward,” she said. “If we didn’t have such great leadership at local universities, this wouldn’t have been possible.”