Boeing leads the way in HBCU-corporate partnership cultivation

Earlier this month, Boeing announced a groundbreaking $6 million investment in technical workforce development in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). TMCF has been fortunate to work with Fortune 500 companies in helping students to realize their career goals and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to build their capacity in pushing these students to success, but I am extremely proud of this partnership and its role in shaping the future of how HBCUs do business with our corporate allies.

Boeing selected eight outstanding HBCUs that will take a lead on cultivating students for careers in the aerospace industry.

Those schools are:

● Alabama A&M University
● Clark Atlanta University
● Morehouse College
● Spelman College
● Howard University
● Morgan State University
● North Carolina A&T State University
● Tuskegee University

What makes this partnership different is that unlike most TMCF agreements where the organization helps to broker relationships between corporations and campuses strong in developing talent in high-need disciplines and industries, Boeing took the lead on developing its own model of performance assessment over short and long-term periods to determine which schools would be better positioned to have a deeper instead of wider relationship in order to focus on a greater return on investment and a larger impact to each priority school.

It looked at metrics such as existing corporate partnerships, performance of graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics marketplace, and execution of government grants and contract awards for elements of capacity. It looked at geographic trends of industry, workforce development need and future growth to see if there was alignment between the kind of graduates schools are producing, and the jobs Boeing is prepared to create to support strategic American productivity and innovation.

After these assessments, the eight institutions proved that in several areas of training and research, they were the best equipped to support Boeing’s mission of diversity and inclusion in building its pipeline of future talent. Their investment will fund scholarships, internships, on-campus engagements and immersive “boot camp” programs that will introduce students to Boeing’s culture and career paths.

And in a true showing of commitment, Boeing has also opened access to its personnel, resources and culture to HBCU students beyond this “Elite Eight” through TMCF’s annual Leadership Institute which will be held October 26-30, 2018 in Washington, DC. The four-day conference prepares carefully selected students from TMCF’s member-schools, which make up the 47 publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to compete in today’s very competitive global workforce. Additionally, Leadership Institute culminates with a robust recruitment fair where Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and graduate program representatives offer jobs, internships and continuing education opportunities.

So what does this mean for the black college community? It means that the model of schools approaching industrial players are waning, and that companies are becoming increasingly aggressive in working with institutions to help develop their own workforce development structures. Gone are the days when college graduates would go to a career center, attempt to match their skills and experiences with a company and an entry-level job with the potential of upward mobility. Companies are now willing to pay to train future mid-level managers, managers, and future executives while they are in school through on-site training, corporate mentoring and field exposure.

Companies like Boeing are shifting their entry-level talent strategy, understanding it is more effective to develop talent over a course of years, with a focus of establishing meaningful relationships. Gone are the days of using long-standing methods of recruitment such as on campus marketing and job fair recruitment to attract a generation of workers with attitudes and approaches to careers that are vastly different from the generation which preceded it. They are under pressure to find workers who look, think, and innovate differently from those which they have historically recruited and hired, in order to keep pace in a global marketplace.

Boeing should be applauded for its years of support of our institutions, and its leadership of the American corporate community in how to measure HBCU value beyond the headlines and rhetoric. This ground-breaking partnership with TMCF builds on Boeing’s ongoing investment in HBCUs, including TMCF member-schools, South Carolina State University, Southern University, Prairie View A&M University, Florida A&M University and Tennessee State University.

With Boeing, HBCU students are going to continue to soar to higher heights because they are leaders worth investing in.
Dr. Harry L. Williams is the President & CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. Prior to joining TMCF, he spent eight years as president of Delaware State University.

By Dr. Harry L. Williams
HBCU Times