Want to Develop More Workers? – How to Connect with Colleges.

Want to Develop More Workers? – How to Connect with Colleges.

The dictionary definition of symbiosis is “a mutually beneficial relationship between different groups” and that concept is exactly what’s happening between companies and colleges all over Indiana. Together, they are making new advancements every day. Employers are helping to shape curriculum and colleges are helping produce skilled individuals that companies need. How can your company join in?

We reached out to leaders from a whole bunch of Indiana schools and asked them:

What are some ways that employers can work with your university to develop the types of employees they need? 


Click to jump down to a college:

Jason Blume
Executive Director of Innovation One
Trine University

Employers interested in developing specific workforce skills can contact Trine’s Career Center to provide student internships, co-ops or job shadowing experiences. They also can participate in mock and informational interviews.

Through Trine University’s Innovation One, employers can provide projects to be completed as part of class curriculum or as business capstone or engineering senior design projects, allowing students to practice and develop skills while meeting business needs. Business leaders can serve as guest lecturers or become part of Trine’s Professional Advisory Boards, which offer the opportunity to guide curriculum content and mentor students.

In addition to building skills in students, Trine partners with employers to offer skills development for current employees. Trine offers training at the university or on-site in areas such as soft skills and can provide specialized workforce certificate programs. Trine’s online academic programs also allow employees to continue along the career education pathway by earning associate’s through master’s degrees.

With more than 99 percent of its students employed within six months of graduation, Trine University prides itself on producing career-ready graduates capable of meeting needs in critical areas such as engineering, health sciences, education and business administration.


Tom Cath
Career Center Director
Valparaiso University

We’re fortunate to have a strong relationship with Indiana businesses and would like to see this continue. Employers have the opportunity to engage directly with students through on-campus events like networking dinners, career panels, mock interviews, receptions, “Employer-in-Residence” events, Career Treks, and job fairs, as well as through internships, which often lead to full-time employment following graduation.

We also encourage employers to continue to share information with University leadership and academic deans. What kinds of skills do they look for in candidates? What sets job-seekers apart? How might we better respond to regional workforce needs? Feedback on candidate preparation, workplace trends, necessary equipment, and software training is invaluable.

As we continually seek the best ways to prepare Valpo students for success, it is important for us to continually reach out to the business community, build connections, and seek input. Likewise, we hope business leaders will come to campus, get to know our students, and share their insight and why Indiana is such a great place to live and work.


Daniel J. Elsener
Marian University

In September 2018, Marian University announced that it will open a new two-year college in July 2019, adjacent to its campus on the near westside of Indianapolis. A month later, a collaboration in mission with Saint Joseph’s College (which suspended operation in May 2017) was announced, which includes naming the new two-year college Saint Joseph’s College of Marian University—Indianapolis. The goal is to enroll 75-125 students in the first cohort, offering associate degrees in business, information technology and liberal arts.

Being very focused in program offerings and class sizes will differentiate us from other two-year colleges in Indiana. It will ensure that students, many of whom will reside on the academic margins in high school, will receive the personal attention they need from faculty and staff in order to succeed in college.

But perhaps our biggest differentiator will be our “earn and learn” model, which will allow students to work full-time to support themselves and their families while they pursue their degree. We are assembling a network of central-Indiana employers who have a need for entry-level employees and will connect those employers with our students for full-time employment. Class schedules will be very flexible – either half-day four-days-per-week or full-day three-days-per-week. The jobs will be relevant to the degree that the student is pursuing, linking learning and earning into a meaningful work experience.


Stacie Jeffirs
Director of Career Crossings
Saint Mary’s College

Employers can benefit from partnerships with Saint Mary’s College by considering each stage of a student’s four years. Creating robust internship programs for Saint Mary’s students cultivates a pipeline of talent for future full-time hires that are career ready with the skills and experience needed for an effective workforce. This includes assessing the functional roles and needs of companies, creating meaningful work projects to engage interns, coordinating with career centers and academic departments to recruit students, providing continuous feedback and mentorship for interns, and assessing the effectiveness of internship programs.

Offering immersion experiences for first years and sophomores, such as job shadows and visit days, allows for exposure early on in the career development of our students. Fostering partnerships with Saint Mary’s faculty will create a two-way understanding of the connection between curriculum outcomes and application of classroom learning in the workplace. This ensures more effective alignment between the two. Building relationships with the Career Crossings Office is important as we serve as the liaison between employers, faculty, and students.


Thomas L. Keon
Purdue University Northwest

Purdue University Northwest has a legacy of partnering with local, national and global employers to develop graduates that eventually become the leaders shaping their industries. While close relationships with a number of companies have produced several variations, these are prevalent ways employers can work with PNW to guide the development of graduates with skills they need.

First, employers should consider internships. Through part-time or summer full-time placements, employers can give direct feedback about the strengths and weakness of programs to our career office, colleges, and departments.

Deans and department heads are always interested in talking with employers. These connections can help inform curriculum or course additions and changes. At Purdue Northwest, we’ve even had employers work with departments to create new programs to fit specific needs.

Employers can also join the advisory board of a college, department or program. An employer’s insights about industry trends are valuable to guide the future direction of our programs and offerings.

Finally, employers can fund scholarships to help generate graduates with the skills they are interested in finding. This is also a great way to get to know our students and administrators.


Chris Lowery
Senior Vice President for Workforce Alignment
Ivy Tech Community College

85% of Indiana employers report that filling workforce/talent needs is a challenge, and 47% report leaving positions unfilled due to under-qualified applicants, according to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. One way that Ivy Tech Community College has been working to help employers tackle the issue is by collaborating with them on the Achieve Your Degree program.

Investing in employees through the Achieve Your Degree program benefits employees and employers; employees gain critical knowledge and skills, and employers gain the opportunity to invest in the training, education, coaching, and mentoring essential for meeting their talent development needs and positively impacting their job and growth prospects.

Employer tuition assistance programs improve employee retention, promotion, and transfers, and a recent Lumina Foundation analysis of Cigna’s Education Reimbursement Program showed a 129% return on investment. Achieve Your Degree removes barriers to participation by utilizing financial aid and tuition deferral coupled with the employer’s tuition reimbursement policies, eliminating or greatly reducing any up-front costs.

The employer selects the Ivy Tech program offerings and pathways they wish to include in their Achieve Your Degree program and which support internal professional development and training opportunities that reduce employee turnover, foster loyalty and offer career advancement within the company.

Since its inception in August 2016, more than 2,600 employees and over 100 employers signed on to participate in the Achieve Your Degree program, and these students have earned over 5,800 credits, 31 Associate degrees and 31 certificates.


Matt Lucas
IWU-National & Global

While businesses have been proactive about the need for better trained employees, I believe that the responsibility for developing the educational programs that businesses require falls on higher education institutions and not the employers. A proactive university should first ask businesses about the competency needs of their employees and then partner with business leaders to customize solutions. At IWU-National & Global, we are re-imagining this process. We’ve hired a design thinking coach to facilitate partnerships between businesses and faculty members. The design thinking coach, part of IWU’s new strategic program launch team, works with a researcher and curriculum expert to gather data and information on employer needs. With that information, we will design customized solutions that meet both the needs of the employer and the employee who wants that learning to be transferable to future career positions. In higher education, we love standardized curriculum models because they can be replicated, but we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world anymore. We must respond with nanodegree and certificate programs that can be combined and stacked to provide educational credentials that are as unique as the employers and employees who find value in them. When you live in a 3-D printer world, the education must be customizable and portable, so you can take it with you and use it in your own context.


Tradara McLaurine
Executive Director
Indiana State University Career Center

Indiana State University (ISU) is focused on incorporating career readiness throughout the curriculum. Employers can partner with ISU to develop the types of employees they need through workshops, internships, course projects, and classroom presentations. The Career Center has career coaches who serve as liaisons to the five colleges at ISU and employer relations coordinators organized by industry who serve as the liaisons to the employers.

Through this partnership we encourage companies to reach out to our employer relations team to discuss needs and wants. Following this meeting, the team will bring together our career coaches and faculty to determine how we can best fit our employers’ needs. In the past, we have partnered with companies to help our students achieve six sigma green belt certifications, PEGA certifications and have provided over 1,000 internship placements. We look forward to partnering with you in developing tomorrow’s workforce.


Geoffrey Mearns
Ball State University

Our new strategic plan, which was recently revealed, establishes long-term goals for Ball State University for 2040. One of our goals centers on graduate education and lifetime learning, which encompasses our agility as a university to anticipate and respond to workforce needs. We will work closely with employers in executing several key strategic imperatives in the new plan. These imperatives include micro-credentials, short-term learning modules, professional licensure workshops, and enrichment opportunities — all of which accelerate career fulfillment and enhance personal development.

We also want to meet the diverse needs of individuals, employers, and organizations by allowing them to customize their education to specific learning objectives and interests. And we intend for every Ball State graduate to have access to a coach or mentor who will help that graduate develop, implement, and execute a lifetime learning plan. All of these imperatives will require us to build upon and expand our existing relationships with employers in the region and the state. The success of these imperatives will depend upon their engagement, and I look forward to working with them.


Stephen Standifird
Dean, Lacy School of Business
Butler University

Market-centricity is at the heart of what we believe in at the Lacy School of Business. Combining theory and conceptual learning with industry and experiential opportunities produces graduates and learners who are ready to make an impact whether in their first job or looking for that next step. Close business partnerships are key to us achieving this, and these partnerships take on many forms whether through class projects or joining a classroom, working with our consulting, executive education, or closely held business center, or employing our students through internships and full-time opportunities. Our partnerships are deep and intentional, looking for mutually beneficial ways to build off one another.

We love working with employers to meet their needs and better develop our graduates and learners. A simple conversation can spark insight for you and us, and we’re generally able to help contribute to your workforce goals through one of our programs or build a program to meet your specific needs. We also have resources that can build further skills in the set of employees you already have. Get in touch with us to start the conversation.


Jana Szostek
Director, Assessment Center and Center for Professional Development
Indiana University Northwest School of Business & Economics

Indiana University Northwest School of Business and Economics is a resource that can help local businesses secure top-notch talent.  Whether it be through developing staff, helping to select and promote the right people, or developing the next generation of business professionals, we are here to help companies build a strong, competent workforce.

Investing in employees leads to enhanced performance and loyalty. Through our Center for Professional Development, we provide customized training and coaching that can help your team excel. We offer a variety of certification programs, including Lean Six Sigma and Microsoft Office Specialist, and provide a host of management and HR assistance, including executive selection, job analysis, and leadership development. Our faculty and staff possess extensive, real-world business experience that helps our clients develop their workforce.

Our curriculum represents a unique blend of business knowledge and skills that create well-rounded, workplace-ready students.  We invite you to engage with our students through internships, our Small Business Institute, our private recruitment event, and more.

We would appreciate the opportunity to explore opportunities with you.


David Tucker
Vice President, Workforce Development/Community Services
Vincennes University

Vincennes University provides employers with a variety of tools for meeting their workforce needs. First, VU produces high quality associate and bachelor-degree graduates every year at our main campus in Vincennes. We encourage employers to post jobs with us, and to go further by participating in hiring fairs, campus interviews, student scholarships and program advisory boards.

Second, VU partners with employers and communities across the state to provide local workforce education and training. We have thousands of high school students dually enrolled in high school and VU programming across the state. Upon completion of the dual credit classes and early colleges programs, those students are a great source of homegrown talent for employers.

Third, VU partners with employers on work-based learning programs across the state, in which students split their time between working and taking classes with VU. Again, work-based learning is an excellent way for employers to tap into high quality, local talent.

Fourth, VU provides employers with workplace training around the state — at our training centers and onsite. No matter the industry, VU has customized training solutions to skill up current employees.


Gene Wells
Senior Director of the Center for Career Development
University of Evansville

Employers big or small may benefit from the following advice to improve their recruitment and retention at the University of Evansville:

  1. Maintain a consistent presence on campus through traditional and nontraditional means such as class presentations, career fairs, informal networking opportunities, participation in campus mentoring programs and developing a student ambassador program and systemic communication with the career center.
  2. Create an internship or co-op program to grow candidates for your business and if a for-profit organization, pay your interns a competitive wage. For nonprofits, find a donor willing to provide a stipend.
  3. Cultivate relationships at the Career Center and provide continuity in the recruitment function at your firm. For many organizations, campus recruitment is an entry-level position with plenty of turnover. Many new recruiters start from scratch without realizing their existing talent pipeline.
  4. In the end, recruitment and retention of college graduates is about relationships and culture. Be sure that interns and new college hires are plugged into your work and outside community.
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