Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $5.7 million grant to Indianapolis-based TechPoint so that the not-for-profit can expand its programs for tech-minded college students.
TechPoint, which is part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, is an advocacy group promotes Indiana’s tech industry. Talent attraction is one of its focus areas.
The three-year Lilly Endowment grant will allow TechPoint to expand two of its talent-focused initiatives: A 10-week college internship program called Xtern, and a three-week Xtern Bootcamp that aims to prepare college underclassmen for future Xtern experiences.
The grant is the third TechPoint has received from Lilly Endowment. In 2013 the endowment gave a $1.3 million two-year grant to establish the Xtern program, which launched in the summer of 2014. Then, in 2015, Lilly Endowment granted TechPoint another $1.4 million, also a two-year grant, to continue the program.
“It’s really designed to continue the momentum that they’ve built,” said Judith Cebula, communications director at Lilly Endowment. “We’ve been very pleased with what TechPoint is doing.”
Cebula said the endowment considers the TechPoint grants to fall under the category of education, which is one of the key areas the endowment supports. Since 2003, the endowment has made $122 million in grants to Indiana colleges and universities to help students explore and prepare for future careers in the state.
“The endowment’s work with TechPoint is in some ways an extension of that,” Cebula said.
In 2014, 50 students participated in TechPoint’s Xtern program, which offers students 10-week paid internships at area tech companies. Students also receive free housing and participate in networking and social activities.
In its fourth year of operation this past summer, the program attracted 1,300 applicants. Of those, 130 students from 40 different states were selected to work at one of 55 area companies.
“It’s a massive talent pipeline,” said Mike Langellier, TechPoint’s president and CEO.
Xtern Bootcamp launched in 2016 with 50 participants. This past summer, it grew to 125. This classroom-focused program is geared toward students with an Indiana connection–those who are either from here or attend college here, or both.
TechPoint will use the Lilly Endowment grant to support and expand both these initiatives, Langellier said. The 2018 goal is to have between 130 and 150 Xtern participants and about 150 boot camp participants.
The larger goal of both initiatives, Langellier said, is to convince tech talent that the Indianapolis area is a good place to live and work. Among former Xterns, he said, even those who grew up in central Indiana were often unaware of Indianapolis’ tech industry and its quality-of-life offerings.
“They’ve been in orbit around the city and they haven’t actually experienced it as a young professional.”
Initial signs show the strategy is paying off, Langellier said.
TechPoint said it surveys students both before and after their Xtern experiences. In the “before” surveys, 17 percent of participants indicate that they are likely to choose to work in Indianapolis and 30 percent say that they have a positive impression of the city. After their Xtern experience, 73 percent of students say they’re likely to choose to work in Indianapolis and 97 percent report having a positive view of the city.
Langellier said TechPoint is in the process of gathering more data on this point. The organization is doing research to learn where former Xterns actually ended up working in the Indianapolis area after graduation.
“It’s a project in process right now,” he said.