Grant will fund school-employer collaboration

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded $375,000 to the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Community Partnership Inc. to improve the alignment of education programs offered at area colleges and universities with the needs of employers.

The efforts, which will be carried out through the Regional Partnership's talent development efforts known as the Big Goal Collaborative, are aimed at preparing graduates for successful employment in Northeast Indiana.

"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," says Ryan Twiss, director of the Big Goal Collaborative at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

This grant will support the Big Goal Collaborative's College to Career Action Team (CoCAT), which is composed of representatives from Huntington University, Indiana Tech, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), Ivy Tech-Northeast, Manchester University, the University of Saint Francis, the Graduate Retention Program of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Northeast Indiana Works and the Questa Education Foundation.

"We're excited about this opportunity, and we recognize that getting all universities at the same table to work on ways to connect our students and our graduates to jobs in Northeast Indiana will help all of us," says Dr. Ann McPherren, vice president for strategy at Huntington University. "The efforts of the partnership will reinforce the efforts Huntington University has been making through its Enterprise Resource Center. The ERC matches students and employers through internship experiences. This new effort will lead to even wider opportunities for students to get hands-on experience."

The grant will enable CoCAT to:

• Create an integrated employer database to track the skills, education and training needs of local employers, which schools in Northeast Indiana can use to develop or refine programs.

• Build stronger connections between businesses and higher education institutions within the region and explore opportunities for collaboration, such as internships, training programs and adjunct facility positions.

• Develop an educational asset map and analyze the programs offered at area schools to determine if there are any gaps between what is being offered and what employers need.

Community Partnership Inc., a supporting entity to the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, will act as fiscal sponsor for the grant and the Regional Partnership will oversee operations.

"This grant from Lilly Endowment shows strong support for the work being undertaken in Northeast Indiana to transform our workforce and economy. We are honored for the opportunity to be a leader in these efforts," said Reed Silliman, Community Partnership Inc. board chair.

The Big Goal Collaborative was established in 2012 and is comprised of regional educators, community partners, businesses, civic leaders and others from throughout Northeast Indiana committed to the "Big Goal." The "Big Goal" - one of the priorities identified through the Regional Partnership's Vision 2020 initiative-aims to increase the percentage of Northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

For more information about the Big Goal Collaborative, visit www.neindiana.com/vision/biggoal.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership was formed in 2006 to help build a globally competitive economy in Northeast Indiana. Through its combined efforts in business development and capacity building, the Partnership supports its 10 member counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.