Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played a critical role in educating the nation’s brightest and most unique talent. This group of over 100 institutions has done their part to expand access and opportunity to students who mostly make up diverse and underrepresented communities.

Diversity of thought, along with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences help drive innovation. At Lincoln Financial Group, we have intentionally built strong partnerships with HBCUs and have attracted phenomenal talent that empower our customers and help our communities achieve remarkable things. In our partnership with these institutions, we have found immense value in nurturing our relationship to ensure we are serving their students effectively and providing opportunities tailored to their needs and desires.

For example, we recently partnered with Morgan State University, one of the nation’s leading HBCUs and Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, to host two unique professional development competitions.

The first competition was hosted by Lincoln Financial Distributors (LFD), our wholesale distribution network. Students were paired with Lincoln leaders and mentors, who provided presentation training and helped prepare the students for weekly competitions judged by an internal panel. The top two finalists received internship offers from Lincoln for its summer 2022 program and the winner received a monetary scholarship toward his university expenses.

The second competition, CodeLinc, is a “hackathon” style event, run by Lincoln’s information technology (IT) organization, which allows high school and college students to use their coding skills to earn credit toward tuition and books. Taking place in Spring 2022, teams of students will work with a Lincoln Financial Group coach who will provide mentorship, advice, technical assistance and encouragement on topics ranging from coding to presenting ideas effectively. CodeLinc has been a successful vehicle for recruiting early career talent to Lincoln’s IT organization. More than 400 students have participated across seven events; 29 have accepted internships and full-time positions at Lincoln Financial Group as a result.

“Deepening our relationships with HBCUs is an important component of our recruiting and talent strategy, enabling us to raise awareness of Lincoln as an employer of choice for an increasingly diverse population of students for our highly competitive internship programs and our entry-level job opportunities,” said Mike Kellar, vice president of recruiting at Lincoln Financial Group.

As many companies are attempting to create meaningful partnerships with HBCUs, which benefit both the organization and HBCU students and recent graduates, it’s important to keep the following best practices in mind:

  1. Broaden Your Horizons

As of today, there are 107 HBCUs in the U.S. that produce keen graduates in industries that traditionally lack diversity. For example, Delaware State University, located in Dover, and Florida Memorial University, located in Miami have two of the nation’s top aviation programs. Also, Prairie View A&M University, located in Prairie View, Texas and Alabama A&M University in Huntsville are known to generate significant numbers of high-achieving graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Companies must go beyond the more popular and heavily recruited schools such as Howard University, Hampton University and Spelman College. There are various HBCU graduates from all over the nation who are eager to bring their talents and skills to your companies. It is important for companies to tailor to the partner they desire to work with and find ways to help students achieve their goals.

  1. Show Opportunities for Career Development and Advancement

We have found that our HBCU employees see career advancement and professional growth as a high priority when job searching. In partnership efforts, it is important to mention professional development opportunities, resource groups, access to senior leaders and career mapping to reassure candidates that they are being invested in for long-term career development. Showing institutions that you are committed to their success, especially for entry-level positions and internships, is especially important.

  1. Create a Relationship With Campus Career Centers

In building a successful partnership, campus career coaches and advisors are great points of contact to set up a consistent presence on campuses and amongst HBCU talent. Gaining a consistent and strong relationship with campus representatives is a great way of showing your company’s brand goals and opportunities to potential HBCU employees. Career centers on campus have direct access to your desired talent pool and can lead you in the proper direction to further engage with students through campus events such as career fairs, development workshops, conferences, career seminars and more.

  1. Engage Institutions With Efforts That Highlight You Company’s Inclusive Values

The values of HBCUs are historically rooted in creating spaces for underrepresented communities to feel a sense of family, collaboration and support. This support is often displayed in several ways including faculty mentorships, alumni networking and a culture of camaraderie that encourages students to achieve and overcome various obstacles. When developing partnerships with these schools, it is important to show how your company provides those similar values in the workplace. For example, highlight affinity groups, diverse professional organizations, volunteer programs or mentorship opportunities that reinforce your company’s culture of inclusion and community.

By following the tips above, your organization can begin and sustain a successful partnership with HBCUs and pioneer a more equitable future of work as a result.