INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers say they’re considering new options for students to meet high school graduation requirements, and that could mean a greater emphasis on work-based learning.
Work-based learning opportunities through courses, internships and apprenticeships are growing at high schools all over Indiana. And state lawmakers and officials with the Indiana Department of Education say they want to keep that momentum going.
One program at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia allows students to learn skills for several aspects of construction.
“I’m learning how to wire a receptacle, I’m learning how to wire a panel box, so all of that is stuff that’s applicable to that career,” said sophomore Isabel Morrow, who hopes to become an electrician.
“We were able to go out, run skid steers for two days, get certified in that,” said junior Nate Williams, who is interested in running heavy equipment for civil construction after graduation.
The program for civil construction, which involves infrastructure, is expanding to a few more schools around the state under Indiana Constructors, Inc.
According to Eric Fisher, the group’s director of talent development, it also involves getting out of the classroom through internships that can help set students up for their career path.
“The need is definitely there,” Fisher said. “41% of the construction workforce is going to age out between now and 2030.”
State leaders say they want to see more of those kinds of programs offered through Indiana schools.
The state’s new online dashboard detailing school performance includes information on work-based learning.
“It’s how can we maximize the time while a student is in high school so they find their value and potential,” Indiana Education Secretary Katie Jenner said at a recent State Board of Education meeting.
And House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) told reporters last month it’s part of the discussion as lawmakers are reviewing high school graduation requirements.
“I think there are opportunities with work-based learning to really change what high school looks like,” Huston said. “You see it in bits and pieces across the state.”
Kevin Sheets, who teaches more than 100 students through Hamilton Heights’ construction program, said he’s seeing enthusiasm from both students and local employers.
“A lot of the companies are so grateful that we actually teach this at the high school level, in a high school, not a career center, but a high school, because it exposes kids to different things and they find out what their aptitude is,” Sheets said.