A collaborative effort to use area colleges to bring young people to the region and keep them here appears to be working and will be made into a permanent organization.
The Knowledge Industry Partnership will be relaunched this fall with the idea of turning it into a stand-alone nonprofit, said Josh Sevin, manager of knowledge industry initiatives for the city of Philadelphia.
This is doing what we wanted, said Sevin, who evaluated the program as a consultant before being hired by the city. The question of whether we should go forward doing this was a very short discussion.
The partnership is a collaboration among the city, the state and various nonprofits that was launched in 2003 as a three-year venture. It works with area colleges and universities to do three things: Get more young people to apply to schools in the region; get them involved in the area while they’re here; and increase the likelihood they can get jobs here after they graduate. Nonprofits lead the efforts to accomplish each task. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is in charge of attracting students, Campus Philly gets them involved, and Innovation Philadelphia helps connect them with employers. The local division of the Pennsylvania Economy League has done research used by the partnership.
The effort is considered important because having bright, young people in the area lures employers, which in turn attract more bright, young people in a chicken-and-egg phenomenon. That’s especially important to Philadelphia, which ranks 92nd out of the 100 largest U.S. cities in percentage of residents with a college degree, according to a report issued last year by the Pennsylvania Economy League and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board.
Since its creation, the partnership has had an annual budget of around $1 million. About 60 percent of its funds last year came from the state and city, with the rest coming from colleges and corporate sponsorship of events.
Plans are for the relaunched organization to also get money from the academic, public and private sectors, with corporations contributing more than previously, Sevin said. The partnership’s transition into a stand-alone nonprofit will largely be funded by the $1 million the city committed to the organization in the economic-development blueprint it released last year, he said.
The transition comes as leaders of two of the nonprofits involved in the partnership are leaving to run other organizations in Philadelphia. Richard A. Bendis is stepping down as president and CEO of Innovation Philadelphia to run True Product Inc., a company that specializes in anti-counterfeiting technology. David Thornburgh, the Pennsylvania Economy League’s executive director, is leaving to head the nationally oriented Alliance for Regional Stewardship, a nonprofit that promotes regionalism as a key to economic development.
Bendis’ successor has yet to be chosen, and what will become of Innovation Philadelphia after he leaves has yet to be determined. Steven Wray, who has been the PEL’s deputy director for 11 years, will replace Thornburgh.
The participants in the partnership hope to have co-chairs in place this summer and begin building a board of directors. The intent is to have one co-chair be a prominent business executive and the other be a prominent university president, and the board be made of higher-ups from business and academia, Sevin said. The partnership was first chaired by Judith Rodin. After she stepped down as president of the University of Pennsylvania, she was replaced by Philadelphia University President James Gallagher.
Two surveys released by Campus Philly indicates the partnership may have begun to achieve its hoped-for results. A survey the organization conducts at a festival it holds on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway every fall found that 65 percent of students polled last year said they are likely to stay in the region after they graduate. That’s up from 60 percent when the survey was first conducted in 2003.
An e-mail survey the organization conducts in spring had the percentage at 64 percent, up from 50 percent when it was first conducted in 2002.
Neither survey is statistically significant, but both drew from a wide-enough range of schools to make it likely that they’re reliable indicators of student sentiment, said Jonathan Grabelle Herrmann, Campus Philly’s executive director.
The analysis Sevin conducted in December found more evidence of the partnership’s success. Among its findings: Applications to schools that participated in an outreach effort called One Big Campus, which markets the area to prospective college students and their parents through a Web site, brochures and a magazine, grew to 83,500 last year from 74,000 in 2001.
Enrollment at schools that participated in One Big Campus increased 9.6 percent from 2001 to 2004. That compares to 6.8 percent for area schools that didn’t participate and 7.6 percent for other schools in Pennsylvania.
The effort to retain students has led to companies offering more than 4,100 internship opportunities at fairs held by CareerPhilly, Innovation Philadelphia’s effort to link students with employers. More than 2,000 internship opportunities have been posted on the CareerPhilly Web site.