Indiana coalition to invest in apprenticeship system

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In response to Indiana’s ongoing workforce shortage, more than 100 Hoosier leaders, including business executives, university presidents, school superintendents and state government officials, have formed a coalition to support a statewide modern youth apprenticeship program.

The group recently kicked off a 10-month implementation lab, known as an iLab, with the goal of increasing the number of youth apprenticeships in Indiana.

In September, the coalition traveled to Switzerland to learn best practices from a country that is internationally recognized for its apprenticeship system. The model allows 11th grade high school students to participate in a three-year, paid work-and-learn program, culminating in a high school diploma, college credit and an industry credential.

While on the trip, Claire Fiddian-Green, president of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, announced a $180,000 grant for the Center on Economics and Management of Education and Training Systems, or CEMETS, at ETH Zurich, a public research university, to host an iLab in Indiana.

“CEMETS iLab Indiana will support stakeholders working to scale modern youth apprenticeship programs both in the Indianapolis region and statewide,” Fiddian-Green said in written remarks. “By making Indiana a leader in work-based learning, we’re seeking to become a top destination for employers looking to expand existing businesses and entrepreneurs working to launch new businesses.”

The iLab’s members are divided into committees that focus on the roles of relevant stakeholder groups: employers, high schools and higher education institutions. The iLab is specifically targeting how to scale youth apprenticeship across three industry groupings: banking and insurance, life sciences and health care, and advanced manufacturing, all of which face increasing talent shortages.

The Indy Chamber is conducting an industry occupation analysis to inform the iLab’s work and will develop a plan for how to communicate about modern youth apprenticeship to employers and other stakeholders.

To fund the management of the iLab, the Fairbanks Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to the Indy Chamber, and a portion of the Fairbanks Foundation’s existing $6 million grant to Ascend Indiana is being used to fund its work with the iLab. Ascend will also support industry-specific trips for iLab committee members.

The coalition’s efforts build on legislation that was passed in the 2023 legislative session. House Enrolled Act 1002, a sweeping education package, established the Career Scholarship Account fund, which provides money that students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades can use toward apprenticeships, applied learning, work-based learning and other post-secondary credentials.

The law allows students to use the money to enroll in “earn-and-learn” opportunities and pay for transportation, uniforms and other on-the-job costs.

Gov. Eric Holcomb made workforce development a staple of his 2024 agenda by launching “One Stop to Start,” a statewide workforce development campaign, with the goal of connecting Hoosiers with existing workforce- and job-related training programs and resources. The initiative will use funds from the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to promote awareness and access to Indiana’s NextLevel Jobs Programs.

House Bill 1001, filed by Rep. Chuck Goodrich, a Republican from Noblesville who authored the 2023 bill creating the CSA program, would clarify that the career funds can be used for costs related to obtaining a driver’s license and allows recipients to use money obtained from the state’s 21st Century Scholars Program (currently set up to provide college scholarships) for training by an approved intermediary, employer or labor organization.

It would also require state educational institutions to provide certain information regarding degrees, degree completion, faculty members and other costs to the Commission for Higher Education.

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