A lot has been happening in the field of education in the last year, including the upcoming programs and regulations we discussed in the previous blog! Many plans have been proposed and implemented that further prepare students for life after high school. While some students go on to secondary education, others often go straight into the workforce. These new policies are meant to better prepare graduates to enter the workforce in manufacturing and related fields.

According to ChangeTheEquation.org, “STEM jobs in Indiana will grow 17 percent from 2014-2024, compared with 11 percent for non-STEM jobs. Although many Indiana students seem to aspire to 4-year degrees, only 28 percent of the state’s degrees and certificates are awarded in the STEM field.” The education sphere is realizing the need for increased vocational training and career readiness, which is evident in several new policies and programs being implemented in the state of Indiana.

Increased Graduation Requirements

In tangent with increased career readiness for the manufacturing field, many schools are now requiring that students meet several requirements before graduating high school. These requirements include:

1. An After-School Job (or something similar)

This allows students to receive “applied learning” experiences, which better prepares them for careers after schooling.

2. Welding Certificate (or something similar)

In addition to applied learning experience, students will have to demonstrate that they are college or career-ready in another way. This can be done by achieving a certificate or work credential (i.e., The American Welding Society’s entry-level certification offered through many high school’s career and technical education programs). Many other recognized credentials will work, in addition to a certain number of technical education courses offered.

3. College Credit   

Students can demonstrate college and/or career readiness by obtaining college courses while still completing their high school course load.

4. College Acceptance Letter, Enlistment, or Full-Time Job

Students that haven’t met any of the above requirements but can demonstrate that they have a solid plan for their lives after graduation are also considered for graduation. This can include a college acceptance letter, military enlistment, or a full-time employment.

5. Diploma

Students must also meet the state’s standard diploma requirements in order to graduate.

New Indiana Career Exploration Program – Going Deeper

In addition to this proposed law, Senate Bill 198 (the bill discussed in last week’s blog) will acts as a bridge between the state curriculum and what the workforce demands.

This bill was co-authored and by Sen. Dug Eckerty, and would require all eighth-graders to complete a career exploration course before high school. This program will be called the “Indiana Career Explorer” program, and is aimed at filling a potential one million unfilled jobs in the next ten years.

The Star Press states that, “The state will use employment demand data from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to inform the education system, and more specifically the career and technical side of education, toward high wage-high demand jobs in Indiana that may not necessarily need an associate or four-year college degree,’ Eckerty said. ‘In the past, we have used data from too many sources, which has led us to shoot at too many targets and caused us not to be very effective with our workforce training.’”

Students will take an aptitude test that doesn’t limit their options, but rather helps them narrow down the field they would like to pursue. Students will be presented with the information they need to will help them obtain relevant certificates, credentials, or degrees along with their exact cost!  They can even search the DWD database to see if there are employers in their county who need trained people of interest for a certain field, in addition to the current/projected employer demand and wage for that specific job. Finally, the student will be able to create a “Pathway to Completion,” which lays out their entire timeline from start to finish. This helps students understand and set career goals, which helps them start working towards these goals and taking strides to enhance their career readiness earlier in the process.

Progress is Slow, But the Future is BRIGHT!

Even though programs are slowly being created and implemented, the most important thing is that we realize the impact and importance of manufacturing on the upcoming generations of students. Paving a way for these students to become successful is crucial, and it’s important that we invest in and give opportunities to current educators in order to allow the next generation, and the industry itself, to thrive.