The United Negro College Fund has announced a seven-year, $50 million commitment from the Lilly Endowment to launch an initiative that helps prepare students for meaningful employment in a technology-driven global economy.
Through the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative, UNCF will award competitive grants to four-year historically black colleges and universities and predominantly black institutions in support of career guidance services and efforts to help students gain the skills, experiences, and knowledge employers in the twenty-first-century global economy require. The initiative also will help institutions build partnerships with local and national employers and better familiarize college faculty with contemporary workplaces so they can more effectively teach, advise, and mentor students. Among other things, the initiative aims to increase the employment rates of HBCU and PBI graduates by at least 15 percent over seven years, with success to be measured by a range of metrics aimed at determining the initiative's impact, effectiveness, and replicability. Grant application guidelines will be announced in December.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African-American college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 in 2013 was 12.4 percent, more than twice the rate among white college graduates, while in 2014 the percentage of recent African-American college graduates who were underemployed was 56 percent.
"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 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."