Legislation aims to expand high school internships

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Indiana schools and businesses would be able to partner for student internship opportunities under a new bill passed this week in a House committee.

House Bill 1003, authored by Rep. Steven Braun, R-Zionsville, aims to create programs that help high school students obtain the skills they need for high-demand jobs.

“A highly educated workforce is the key factor to Indiana’s future economic success, in my opinion,” Braun said.

The bill would expand the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program, commonly known as EDGE. Under the program, secondary schools partner with businesses who invest in the school’s curriculum and training of students. The businesses are then allowed a tax credit if they hire the previously interned student once he or she obtains certification.

Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, co-authored the bill and worked primarily on the business-school partnership portion.

“The bill will help create career pathways for students who are unsure of their future plans and are not college-bound,” Heuer said. “By giving these kids opportunities to experience jobs before they graduate, they can have a much better opportunity to establish that career path.”

Braun said Indiana employers will create roughly 500,000 new jobs between now and 2018.

“These students are looking for high-wage, high-demand jobs,” Heuer said. “We are trying to fill high-wage, high-demand jobs. There’s a gap there and that’s one thing we’re trying to fill.”

“My goal would be to see every school in the state of Indiana partnered with a manufacturing facility to get these types of skills we know they’re going to need to be successful in the future, for our benefit and for theirs as well,” said Jennifer Fisher, the culture and retention manager at Garrett-based Group Dekko, an Indiana manufacturer. “We want to make sure we can fill that gap.”

Braun focused on the second part of the bill, which changes how student data is collected. The bill renames the Indiana Workforce Intelligence System as the Indiana Network of Knowledge in order to create a cross-agency that will better manage data collection.

“For us to understand what (the 500,000 new) jobs are and what the required skill sets are, is absolutely critical,” Braun said. “Our ability to successfully address building the right skills for our current and emerging work force is directly dependent on having a robust and capable data resource.”

But several organizations said they were concerned with how the collection of data would affect the privacy of students.

“I think our initial concerns were about the creation of someone who was a data czar,” said John Barnes, a lobbyist for the Department of Education. “We’re concerned about too much power in the hands of too few people and insufficient checks and balances in terms of safeguarding data privacy at a time when that is the hot topic. It certainly is a public concern.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association was also concerned with the types of data being collected.

“It’s definitely something other states are doing right now and we shouldn’t be left behind, but I think this is more than a framework at this point,” said Gail Zeheralis, the director of government relations for ISTA. “We have an entity out there and we have some unanswered questions about the types of data collected.”

“Students find a purpose when we create this connection, when we create this opportunity,” said Brady Mullet, the principal at Eagle Tech High School in Columbia City. “I know there’s data pieces that have to be worked out, but when it comes to opportunity, the students will benefit.”

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