Ascend Indiana receives Lilly Endowment, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust funding to grow strategic talent pipelines

Ascend’s custom talent pipelines connect companies to candidates; New Ascend Network places early-in-career candidates with jobs and internships

INDIANAPOLIS (June 22, 2018) ─ Ascend Indiana, a Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) initiative focused on closing the talent gap, has secured additional funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to advance its efforts to connect talent to Indiana employers. The nearly $2.4 million in funding will be used to bring together companies and higher education institutions to create custom talent pipelines, and to advance the Ascend Network, a new cloud-based platform that combines algorithms with human interaction to match early-in-career talent (college students or recent graduates) to jobs and internships.

Ascend has raised $1.1 million toward a $1 million match challenge from Lilly Endowment. The match was part of a $5 million grant awarded to the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) Foundation in 2016 to support the first three years of Ascend’s operations.

In addition, Ascend has received a $225,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to support the initiative’s development of custom talent pipelines through its strategic consulting services.

Since its inception, Ascend has secured more than $9 million in funding and has 40 employees. The initiative will continue to scale its efforts during the coming year.

“Funding from Lilly Endowment and Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and the support of corporate partners show their commitment to helping students prepare for the kinds of jobs that will help them build meaningful careers here in Indiana,“ said Jason Kloth, president and CEO of Ascend Indiana.

“Ascend’s in-depth and tailored efforts to help students and other job seekers prepare for careers and connect with employers show great promise,” said N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment’s chairman, president and CEO. “We are pleased to support these innovative approaches that promote win-win scenarios for employees and employers and help build the prosperity of our state.”

“We’re proud to support Ascend’s efforts to develop more pathways to employment for Hoosiers,” Trustee Kent E. Agness, with the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, said. “Programs such as these immeasurably improve individual lives and Indiana businesses, which strengthens our greater community.”

Ascend’s Custom Talent Pipeline Development Services are Filling Job Gaps for Companies

When talent supply doesn’t meet demand for specific jobs, Ascend assists employers by working with them to define the number of available roles and the knowledge and skills required for each position. Together, they then identify, evaluate and secure higher education partners to build specific curricula, training experiences and career pathways for students. The students involved in the employer program receive financial incentives, work and learn experiences and ultimately jobs for specific in demand roles.

Two examples that were recently announced show how Ascend developed custom talent pipelines designed to solve employment gaps in the healthcare sector:

  • Serving as an intermediary, Ascend is collaborating with Community Health Network and two education partners to create a program for behavioral health that focuses on opioid addiction treatment. The program, funded by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, is expected to add up to 30 behavioral health professionals annually, serving 3,000 more Hoosier patients each year.
  • Ascend is bringing together Community Health Network and the University of Indianapolis to address critical shortages in the nursing workforce. Forty-six nursing students (traditional and second-degreed students) are currently committed to the program and are taking classes toward their nursing degree as part of the Nursing Academy.

Currently, Ascend is working with a number of companies and higher education institutions. In addition to Community Health Network and the University of Indianapolis, it has engaged with Roche Diagnostics, Catalent, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College, among others.

“To meet the needs of our patients, we must meet the demands in our workforce,” said Bryan Mills, president and CEO of Community Health Network. “This work cannot be accomplished alone. Ascend Indiana’s strategic vision and innovative thinking has resulted in the partnerships needed to build a talent pipeline of uniquely qualified caregivers and ensure exceptional care for more patients both now and in the future.”

Ascend’s New Network is Connecting Early-in-Career Candidates with the Right Jobs and Internships

Ascend also has created the Ascend Network, an innovative cloud-based platform that combines a tech-enabled algorithm with something that is often overlooked in the job search process: human interaction.

The Ascend Network, which will continue its pilot phase through 2018, humanizes the job search process by increasing connectivity between employers and early-in-career job seekers. Candidates meet one-on-one with an Ascend representative after completing an interest form at Next, a candidate receives an invitation to complete a Network profile that enables the candidate to receive job and internship opportunities tailored to his or her skills and interests. An Ascend representative serves as a resource during the job search and application process.

For employers, the Network provides access to a pre-vetted pool of eligible, interested, and diverse early-in-career candidates; extends their recruitment reach to more Indiana campuses; and profiles companies in a way that appeals to college-aged talent. The Ascend Network algorithm also recommends eligible candidates for each job or internship based on the employer’s desired criteria for the role.

So far in the pilot phase, the Network includes more than 70 partner companies and 14 higher education institutions. To date, Ascend has identified and pre-qualified more than 12,000 early-in-career candidates as a potential fit to join the Network and has conducted more than 1,500 one-on-one interviews. More than 600 candidates have active profiles on the Network and are available for jobs and internships.

About Lilly Endowment

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a national private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

About Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust seeks to help people in need, especially women, children and families; to protect animals and nature; and to enrich community life primarily in metropolitan Phoenix and Indianapolis. The Trust has awarded more than $292 million in grants and student scholarships since its inception in 1997. For more information, visit

About Ascend Indiana

Ascend Indiana seeks to ensure every Indiana employer has access to the skilled workforce necessary to thrive, and every Indiana citizen has the opportunity to pursue a meaningful career. Ascend is a catalyst across industry sectors to help connect the supply of skilled talent to demand from employers through scalable programs and innovative solutions. To learn more visit,