Building Their Boilermaker Pipelines

Purdue Engagement convenes Indiana companies, campus partners to beat brain drain and build the talent pipeline

In 2022, Indiana managers posted more than 119,000 jobs seeking applicants with a college degree, but were only able to fill 39,000 of those positions. Responding to employer challenges in connecting graduates and open positions, the Purdue University Office of Engagement convened campus partners and Indiana companies at Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline, a daylong talent engagement strategy session. The event supports Indiana employers seeking to access the Purdue talent pipeline and recruit amidst global competition.

The October event, held at the Convergence Center for Collaboration and Innovation in West Lafayette, was designed to strengthen the state’s workforce pipeline by promoting strategies to build relationships with students, raise student brand awareness of Indiana companies, increase employer knowledge of graduate wage and placement data, and connect employers to university resources.

“I’m excited about what this event is accomplishing,” said Robert Gallardo, Vice President for Engagement at Purdue. “In its second year, the number of participants grew for one reason: it provides small and medium-sized employers valuable information on accelerating student engagement, from hearing from engineering students themselves to seeing an expo of completed student-corporate projects. That plus the personal touch and in-person connections help them take their talent pipeline efforts to the next level.”

Photo: John Bings (Crane), Stephanie Fike (Beam, Longest and Neff), Kelly Kacprowicz (Avalign Technologies), Jaime Dominguez (MPI Corp), and Kathleen Plenus (Modern Forge Indiana) meet students from student organization Scope Consulting at the Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline guided expo. Credit: Lena Kovalenko.

Chelsea Schripsema (left) led a fireside chat and Q&A with fellow Purdue engineering undergraduate students (left to right) Olivia Murchie, Dean Constantine, Sankaran Iyer, and Adrienne Cibulka. Credit: Lena Kovalenko.

University + Community Engagement

Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline is hosted by the Office of Engagement’s Central Indiana and Southeast Indiana regional engagement office directors, Virginia Vought and Julie Rigrish. Purdue’s regional engagement offices engage with Indiana communities to identify local needs and opportunities where the university can collaborate for positive impact.

“We listen to what’s important to our community stakeholders, we look at what resources Purdue has to leverage, and we bring people together,” said Vought. “No one will be surprised to hear that workforce is one of the top areas of concern across the state. As Indiana’s land-grant university, we have a lot of resources to leverage in that area — and more than 52,000 students in West Lafayette alone.”

The Office of Engagement is a part of the Office of the President’s partnerships team and connects the university with communities and individuals in partnerships to make the world a more equitable, resilient and prosperous place for all, at home and across the globe. The Office fosters reciprocal relationships with external partners, leveraging university resources in teaching, research and engagement to fulfill Purdue’s land grant mission.

“Events like Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline help us meet our land-grant mission to leverage Purdue resources for partnerships that strengthen the state of Indiana,” said Rigrish.

Photo: Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline was developed and hosted by regional engagement directors Julie Rigrish and Virginia Vought. Credit: Lena Kovalenko.

Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline brought together:

27 Indiana-based companies from 18 communities across the state.

13 Purdue units and student organizations.

More than a dozen student volunteers and panelists representing chemical, industrial, and mechanical engineering; student organizations; and learning communities.

Image credit: Ryan Maluchnik.

The Local Advantage

While companies of all sizes participated, this brain gain/retain effort was created with Indiana’s small and mid-sized enterprises – which make up the vast majority of the state’s employers – in mind. Indiana companies lacking the recruiting infrastructure of the largest out-of-state employers that travel to recruit Purdue students have something perhaps as valuable – a local advantage. The event’s fireside chats, panel presentations, engagement expo, and networking sessions made this message clear: opportunities abound across campus for Indiana employers to use their local advantage to build relationships with in-demand, Indiana-trained engineering talent.

The local advantage was evident in discussions on increasing student engagement with Indiana employers. Partnership opportunities in capstone, course, and learning community projects; partnerships with student organizations; and workplace-based learning experiences are all more readily accessible to employers just a drive away. Purdue panelists agreed that the employers who use their local advantage to frequent campus and build brand awareness and relationships with student groups over time experience significantly greater recruiting success than their peers who visit campus once per year, for a career fair alone. 

Opportunities to create a hyper-local advantage were on display at the Convergence Center, a facility that provides industry partners a front door to Purdue and an opportunity to hang a shingle on a physical, year-round, on-campus space. Kyle Richmann, talent acquisition manager for Lafayette-based manufacturer Wabash, shared with Indiana companies that the office they created at Convergence for student intern and course project teams supports their rapid-growth internship and graduate recruitment program.

Photo: Representatives from 27 Indiana companies met with potential student organization, course, and learning community partners at the mid-day guided expo. Credit: Lena Kovalenko.

Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline was a wonderful opportunity to connect with Indiana companies. The Office of Professional Practice was able to share the diverse ways companies can hire or connect with Purdue students through its robust offerings of work-integrated learning programs. We are excited to work with industry to build the economy of our state with the help of the tremendous student talent at Purdue University.

Joe Tort

Associate Director, Purdue University Office of Professional Practice

Leveraging Connections for Success 

In a presentation by Center for Career Opportunities director of operations, strategic initiatives, and data analytics Stephen Roach, participants learned that nearly 1,800 companies from across the globe come to campus to recruit Boilermakers each year – and that number excludes those who only recruit virtually. For a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace, Rigrish said this event helps Indiana companies build relationships that set them apart. “The concept for hosting an Indiana employer event stemmed from multiple company inquiries wanting to know how to attract Purdue engineering student talent,” she said. “We wanted to offer Indiana employers an advantage, sharing with them the full span of ways to connect with students and, importantly, a doorway and day for establishing real connections, in person, in real time, with the partners at Purdue that can help them reach their goals.”

Photo: Purdue’s David Montgomery, Sarah Aaron (Precise Systems), Christine Blair-Monroy (Atlas Copco), and Nancy Hathaway (Continuity Pharma) exchange contact information. Credit: Lena Kovalenko.

It truly was an enriching and informative experience. This event really helps employers like us who are looking for a way to get involved with the university.

Maureen Gest

HWC Engineering

Looking Forward

In exit surveys, attendees reported strong interest in additional Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline event iterations, from larger, cross-discipline events to events focused around other in-demand majors, to events in the Indianapolis area and beyond.

“As Purdue accelerates its engagement in Indianapolis and across the state, we’re ready to launch these programs wherever Indiana stakeholders are calling for them,” said Vought.

Indiana companies and Purdue partners with feedback for future events or interest in an invitation to the next Build Your Boilermaker Pipeline event can contact the Purdue Office of Engagement at

Photo: Purdue’s Julie Rigrish, Cassie Jones, Emily Hoeing, and Aaron Ramsey, and Mike Reckowsky discuss curricular and co-curricular opportunities to engage students and Indiana companies. Credit: Lena Kovalenko.

The Office of Engagement is grateful for the contributions of Purdue panelists, partners, and volunteers Stephen Roach, Cassie Jones, Emily Hoeing, Aaron Ramsey, Mike Reckowsky, Joe Tort, Jenny Strickland, Josh Curry, Deanna Bush, Lisa Duncan, Brandi Jittjumnongk, Dave Montgomery, Lauren Nolet, Ian McLane, Jeremiah Monteiro, Benjamin Pekarek, Adrienne Cibulka, Haley Cutler, Chelsea Schripsema, Ethan Kingery, Robert Ooms, Grace Allender, Chelsea Schripsema, Dean Constantine, Sankaran Iyer, Olivia Murchie, Haley Pollock, Ryan Maluchnik, Tyler Wright and student and staff volunteers not captured here, for sharing their time and expertise to support a thriving state and robust talent pipeline. Thanks also to corporate and community partners Kyle Richmann of Wabash and Aaron Yoder of Ascend Indiana.

Sources: Julie Rigrish, Kayla Vasilko, Virginia Vought