UWA awarded grant to enhance job outlook

Published 4:48 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2016


The University of West Alabama has just been named one of only 24 colleges in the U.S. to receive a planning grant that will enhance the school’s flourishing workforce development initiative. UWA has received $1.25 million for an initiative to help students gain the knowledge, preparation, insight and skills needed for meaningful employment upon graduation.

Through this multi-phase grant process, the University received in April 2016 a $100k grant award. UWA was one of 30 to receive funding during that phase. Of the 24 schools receiving continued funding, UWA is one of 15 institutions to receive individual awards ranging from $1 million to $1.5 million. According to UNCF, the nationwide total is expected to assist more than 54,000 students.

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Funding is provided through a $50 million commitment to the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative by the Lilly Endowment Inc. The program gives necessary support for institutions to employ various strategies to achieve the goal of improving job placement outcomes of graduates by way of aligning curricula with local and national workforce needs, development of intentional career pathway options for students across their collegiate experience, and strengthening career service operations.

“This grant award will greatly enhance the workforce development efforts we have put forth over the last few years,” explained UWA President Ken Tucker. “We have made significant strides in providing quality education that results in a highly-skilled, qualified workforce, with credentials and certificates in hand, ready for the high-paying jobs they deserve.”

At UWA, the funding is being used to create a College to Career (C2C) program designed to enhance current career placement activities to better prepare graduates to transition immediately into the workforce upon graduation. The C2C program provides a comprehensive range of career prep activities including graduating senior career development boot camp, career development mentorship programs, standard career pathways planning courses, individual career staff assistance, and new software and tracking programs to enhance graduate employment tracking.

CPI will serve as a model of best practices for all colleges and universities to follow in order to ensure that the needs of students and the demands of the ever-changing marketplace for talent. The model benefits the American higher education system and the global economy alike.

The initiative is designed to support participating institutions to strengthen career guidance and leverage the liberal arts education of students by adding certain skills, experiences, and knowledge required by employers. Programs are expected to engage college faculty in the development of curricula that is aligned with workforce needs to better prepare students to compete in careers of their choice. The initiative also will help institutions build partnerships with local and national employers and improve student career services.

“I am particularly proud of our grant writing team for their ability to prove through our proposal that UWA is a good fit for this award,” Tucker said. “Like the other grantees, UWA was selected based on our proposal’s reflection that we understand the challenges facing our students as they prepare for post-graduate employment. Our proposal included evidence that UWA actively connects with experts who can help find innovative solutions that benefit everyone involved, but ultimately our geographic region as a whole.”

UWA’s C2C team includes four key players who will guide the success of the program.

Tammy White, director of Career Services at UWA, and Veronica Triplett, director for the Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Services, are C2C’s co-directors. They will oversee the operations of the program, from supervising research, training, and reporting, to implementing activities, developing partnerships, and managing the database.

Danielle Buckalew, director of alumni affairs, and Dr. James Robinson, assistant professor of exercise science, will offer their support as well. Buckalew will act as the alumni relations coordinator, identifying alumni in various career fields and matching them with students in those academic areas for a mentoring program. Robinson will be a liaison between school administrators, faculty members, students, and the C2C steering committee.

Reflecting on established initiatives at UWA to connect graduating students with employers, Tucker said that this grant award will enhance the efforts to produce even more job-ready graduates.

“Through industry partnerships we are positioning our graduates to reap the benefits of having the skills training and capabilities they need to get to work immediately without the typical weeks or even months of on-the-job training they would otherwise need,” Tucker said. “Our industry partners outline to us the skill sets and abilities that they need in an employee, and we are creating the opportunities and courses that will develop those attributes.”

The grant program is supported by the Lilly Endowment, a supporter of UNCF each year since 1944. It is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by the Lilly family through their pharmaceutical business. The Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. The organization supports efforts of national significance particularly in the field of religion and, on an invitational basis, disaster relief and recovery efforts and programs that enhance higher education opportunities for African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans across the country.

UNCF is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community, and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country.