The Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) has launched a pilot program in collaboration with industry companies to award three college scholarships and provide internship opportunities at three colleges across the country.

David Tate of Signet, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee; Danny Rosin of Brand Fuel in Morrisville, North Carolina; and Rod Brown, CAS, of MadeToOrder, Inc. in Pleasanton, California, all current or former PPEF Trustees, are serving on a workgroup to research and develop the university scholarship/internship program. Signet, Brand Fuel and MadeToOrder will also provide funding to PPEF to establish a named scholarship at a selected college or university in their business areas.

“This pilot program is a departure from our current scholarship model,” says Sara Besly, PPEF manager. “For years, PPEF has been making a difference to industry families by helping them pay for higher education. Now, PPEF has a chance to broaden our impact to students outside of the industry who would be a good fit for joining the promotional products workforce. With Signet, Brand Fuel and MadeToOrder working with the faculty and students at schools in their backyards, we are hoping to expose students to the great opportunities available within our industry.”

Tate adds, “The pilot program started with the thought that the existing scholarships are a benefit used as a noun, ‘a payment or gift made,’ and we wondered if it be possible to add scholarships that benefit the industry, used as a verb, ‘to receive an advantage or gain.’ The PPEF Board of Trustees sees the potential for this program to be a win for the students, a win for the companies and a win for the industry.”

Two of the scholarships have been established, and research continues in the San Francisco Bay Area for the third.

The Promotional Products Education Foundation–Signet Scholarship will be awarded at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. For the next four years, the $2,500 scholarship will be awarded annually to a junior or senior majoring in marketing management or supply chain management. The selection process will be coordinated by the University of Memphis for students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 who have a financial need.

The Promotional Products Education Foundation–Brand Fuel Scholarship will be awarded at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Two $1,250 scholarships will be awarded annually for two years to students studying marketing and sales or web technologies. The selection process will be coordinated by Wake Tech Community College for students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 who have a financial need.

In addition to providing the funding for these pilot scholarships, the companies will work with the faculty and career services departments at the schools to promote and advance the promotional products industry, and will provide an internship or other opportunities to one or more students from the respective colleges.

The scholarship funding has already opened doors at these schools. Signet has had conversations with the dean and faculty about speaking to classes about the promotional products industry and has attended an internship fair that included veterans, MBA students and other experienced students along with college-aged students. Signet hired three interns and two graduating students full-time as a result of this internship fair. Brand Fuel was asked to have a representative on the Wake Tech Advisory Council and was also asked to provide input on the marketing and sales curriculum at the school.

“Talent strategies today must be innovative in order to reach top candidates,” says Dr. Kathy Tuberville, SPHR, Ed.D, director of the Avron B. Fogelman Professional Development Center at the University of Memphis. “As a leader in this effort, Signet is maximizing these efforts by participating in our programs including our Fogelman Internship Fairs, professional development opportunities for students, and donor support of scholarships. Their support of all of our students, including our veterans, is following a national trend of savvy employers who will land the best students in creative recruiting efforts. If more employers utilize Signet’s strategic and innovative strategies, the talent match challenge will improve for upcoming college graduates. Signet is a valued partner of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics.”

Matthew B. Smith, executive director of the Wake Tech Community College Foundation, says, “We are so grateful that Brand Fuel and PPEF have chosen to support collaboration with colleges and universities who understand and focus on the economic impact of the promotional product industry. Wake Tech has valued relationships with a number of regional firms that have educated us, hired our students and become suppliers to our college. We are certain that the exposure generated by this program will yield talented professionals for the industry.”

PPEF is waiting for notifications about the first recipients of these scholarships. Results from the first year of the pilot program will be presented to the PPEF Board of Trustees in January 2017 for evaluation and determination of expansion of the program to other industry companies. As part of the pilot program, the PPEF workgroup is developing an instruction guide that can be followed by other companies.

“The scholarship funding has accelerated the relationships,” says Rosin. “The schools recognize that we are serious about getting involved and providing internships, jobs and other resources to their students. We are seeing the schools take major steps to build these relationships for the future.”