Indiana Aims to Prioritize Work Skills and Transform High School Education

Indiana lawmakers and education officials are coming together to support a plan to “revolutionize” the state’s high schools by prioritizing career skills. This will involve offering more internships, apprenticeships, and opportunities for students to earn career credentials before they graduate.

Citing research from Georgetown University that shows the majority of new jobs require more than a high school diploma, the state legislature has directed Indianapolis education officials to reconsider the goals of high schools.

Starting next year, current graduation requirements will be replaced with new ones that place greater emphasis on career readiness.

Katie Jenner, the state education secretary, highlighted the need to evaluate the value of high school for students and explore ways to better prepare them for the future.

Jenner emphasized the importance of students gaining workplace experience and earning career credentials, as it benefits both the students and the businesses.

State Representative Chuck Goodrich, who played a key role in introducing $5,000 Career Scholarship Accounts for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, emphasized the need for students to have better opportunities to acquire skills.

Indiana already requires students to demonstrate employability skills to graduate, but the new requirements will focus more on work and skills development.

The Career Scholarship Accounts are part of a broader legislation passed this year, known as House Bill 1002, which also includes additional changes such as providing more career planning information to students and promoting high-wage, high-demand industries.

The Indiana education department is currently seeking input from various stakeholders, including parents, educators, and businesses, to shape the new vision for high school education. The new graduation requirements will be finalized by the end of 2024.

Some key elements under discussion include increasing opportunities for job shadowing, internships, and apprenticeships, revising the required courses, and ensuring students earn credentials for their chosen careers.

The efforts in Indiana have gained national recognition for their focus on career readiness instead of just college preparation. However, there are concerns that some credentials being pursued by students may not have value in the job market.

While some legislators worry that the overhaul is primarily aimed at meeting workforce needs rather than benefiting students, schools like Victory College Prep in Indianapolis are already aligned with the new direction. The school has been providing internships for its 11th and 12th graders for the past five years.

Connecting students with enough workplace opportunities is a challenge that Indiana education officials are aware of. To address this, they are studying successful models from countries like Switzerland, which have a strong culture of school and business collaboration in apprenticeships.

Despite the potential challenges, officials are committed to starting the transformation and learning from the process to continually improve the high school experience for Indiana students.

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