There are an estimated 30,000 youth and young adults who are disconnected from education and employment in central Indiana. According to EmployIndy, a Midwest Urban Strategies member, the disconnect results from a variety of factors including homelessness, criminal history, lack of family support, and inadequate access to job training.
EmployIndy is trying to help through an exciting collaborative effort focused forming partnerships and leveraging stakeholders on work-based learning that provides internships, mentoring, and apprenticeships that rarely happen exclusively in the classroom. With an expanding community of stakeholders aimed at creating a sustainable talent pipeline, work-based learning and apprenticeship are an important step in merging resources and technical expertise in one place.
EmployIndy is working with employers to open their facilities to students and potential employees. “The climate is ripe for this,” said EmployIndy CEO Angie Carr Klitzsch, who is helping lead the initiative. “Employers need talent and they are short for the qualified labor they need to be productive so we’ve been speaking to them and asking them to come further up-stream and talk to young people about their businesses and why they are distinct and why students should choose them over their competitors.”
One of the main objectives of work-based learning is to remove barriers young people face while trying to gain quality employment, and it benefits students, schools, and employers. Work-based learning can help students improve academically and helps them learn how the things they learn in the classroom are connected to the real world. It’s also a great way to explore career options. Work-based learning can improve student motivation, attendance, and graduation rates. It can also improve the school’s relationship with the community. Additionally, work-based learning helps employers reduce their recruitment and training costs, and helps them hire better-prepared employees who understand workplace expectations.
To get this work-based learning effort off the ground in Indiana, education isn’t focused solely on the students and job seekers. In fact, they are trying to shift the paradigm.
“It’s this education process to empower the employers with information – what they’re currently doing is costing them money and we ask them if they would be interested in doing it a different way,” said Carr Klitzsch, who in addition to leading EmployIndy is a board member of Midwest Urban Strategies. “Because of the current labor market we can do that. And we show employers we’ll walk alongside them. When we get young people to their locale they’re going to be job-ready, they’re going to be qualified for that.
“At the beginning of these conversations, there’s a moral imperative but if you come with the economic argument it’s really hard to challenge that. I feel like they are hungry for new solutions.”
So are the schools.
Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), the largest public school system in Indiana, has been moving to a career academy model and recently opened with four different high schools that promote different industry-wise areas that dovetail nicely with the work EmployIndy has been doing in the health and science fields.
“Why don’t we lean into those relationships and partnerships and perform that function for IPS with respect to all of their career academies with this in the back of our minds that if we do this right that that could have legs beyond IPS,” Carr Klitzsch said. “What’s key is engaging employers and doing it in a way that doesn’t scare them off to begin with. We really need their expertise and curriculum development so they can help us influence what’s being taught in these schools.”
With this work-based learning program, the education experience isn’t exclusive to any one group.
“We’ll be building the car as we drive it,” she said.