United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has launched the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), made possible by the Lilly Endowment. The Endowment has committed $50 million to the initiative, in which UNCF will award competitive grants to four-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs) “to help students gain the knowledge, preparation, insight and skills needed for meaningful employment in a technology-driven, global economy.”
“We have designed a program that we envision will serve as a model
of best practices to solve the unemployment and underemployment crisis
among recent college graduates,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael
L. Lomax. “In today’s marketplace, students need both the knowledge and
soft skills to compete in the global economy. Sadly, too many of our
nation’s talented students are having difficulty finding good jobs after
graduation. Our goal is to work with students, faculty, colleges,
alumni, and employers to better connect the student experience with the
jobs of the future.”
In an exclusive interview with Angela Van Croft, UNCF’s director of foundation and corporate relations, Van Croft told TNJ.com, “The goal is to assist colleges and universities with the task of helping students find jobs in their particular area of expertise. It could be STEM or it could be another area. The initiative will also serve to help schools beef up their career services centers.”
And the initiative could not have come at a better time. According to facts and figures gathered by UNCF:
- By early 2015, the underemployment rate for recent college graduates had reached 44 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- As recently as 2013, the unemployment rate for African American college graduates between ages 22 and 27 was 12.4 percent, more than twice the rate of their white counterparts.
- And in 2014, the percentage of recent African American college graduates that were underemployed soared to 56 percent.
The good news is that HBCUs have a proven track record of influencing the academic success of African Americans. They award nearly 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African American students nationally and 25 percent of bachelor degrees in STEM fields earned by African American students in the country are awarded by HBCUs.
“The UNCF Career Pathways Initiative is not only important to HBCUs and
PBIs – it is important for the entire American higher education system.
We are delighted to continue our long-standing relationship with Lilly
Endowment in order to provide innovative solutions for our students,”
said Dr. Lomax. “We are proud to lead the way in helping our colleges
and universities transform the college experience and will develop an
example for all colleges and universities to follow in order to ensure
that we are meeting the needs of our students and the demands of the
The relationship that Lomax speaks of dates back to UNCF’s inception in 1944, as Lilly Endowment has been a donor since that time. By the early 1990s, Lilly began collaborating with UNCF at the local level in Indianapolis, and later brought about a large capital investment in 1998 of $41.7M –the third largest gift to UNCF – to assist each UNCF-member institution and other select HBCUs.
Van Croft told TNJ.com, “Due to the relationship, we know about the work they have been doing in Indiana to combat the issue of students getting degrees and leaving the state. Their goal was to retain the talent instead of graduates going out to other parts of the country for jobs. That is something we were doing on a smaller scale where we were offering job training through the Corporate Scholars Program. Multiple corporations were supporting and sponsoring the idea of helping graduates find jobs in the same region where they graduated. Through the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative, we are now doing it on a national scale.”
Lilly Endowment’s recent gift ties for the second-largest contribution that UNCF has received in its 71-year history.
(CLICK HERE for a related article about UNCF.)