Lilly Endowment Gives $50 Million for Career Pathways Initiative Offered by UNCF

Posted By Eliana Osborn on November 16, 2015 at 9:45 am
Lilly Endowment Gives $50 Million for Career Pathways Initiative Offered by UNCF

The Lilly Endowment is providing $50 million for a Career Pathways Initiative through the UNCF (formerly known as United Negro College Fund). Grant monies will go to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs) to provide “knowledge, preparation, insight and skills needed for meaningful employment in a technology-driven, global economy.”

Unemployment for African-American college graduates is more than double the rate for similar white twenty-somethings and 56% are underemployed. Given these alarming statistics, the UNCF and Lilly hope to target African-American students before they are actively looking for jobs.

For students choosing a college, finding out what a school offers by way of career services and job placement is a smart question to ask. The Career Pathways Initiative is specifically geared toward HBCUs and PBIs in response to the disparate employment numbers. Though African-American students are not the only ones enrolled at these schools, they are the majority. For all college students, an institutional focus on employability is an important priority.

Components and goals of the Career Pathways Initiative

There are several components of the seven-year plan for the Career Pathways Initiative, ranging from professional development for college professors to integrating career preparation into other courses. Campuses will work to partner more effectively with employers, as well as give students opportunities to mindfully consider career options. Much of the initiative will involve collaboration between national thought leaders to discover best practices for preparing students effectively for the job market.

Grant applications will be due in early 2016, and awards will go out to approximately thirty institutions. Training programs, career centers, new degrees or certificates, and more will all be ways different schools can win grant funds. Implementation will begin in late 2016 or early 2017, starting a path where more students are able to transition from college to career successfully.

The $50 million Lilly gift will tie as the second largest given to the UNCF in its 71-year history. The two organizations have partnered every year since UNCF began, focusing on education as a means of improving lives for students and their families. In a press release, UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax said, “The UNCF Career Pathways Initiative is not only important to HBCUs and PBIs – it is important for the entire American higher education system.”

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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