CareerWise Elkhart County partners join statewide coalition for modern youth apprenticeship

Youth apprentices and employers sit around a conference room table listening to a presentation.

CareerWise Elkhart County youth apprentices and employer partners listen to a presentation with Indianapolis-based apprentices and partners April 29, 2024, at the offices of High Alpha in downtown Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – Elkhart County leaders in modern youth apprenticeship are part of a statewide coalition building the future of workplace-based learning.

Baugo Community Schools superintendent Byron Sanders, Concord Community Schools superintendent Dan Funston, Concord assistant superintendent of educational programming Dr. Lisa Kendall, CareerWise Elkhart County director Sarah Koontz, CareerWise Elkhart County partnership manager Miranda Cripe, and HEA president/CEO Brian Wiebe are all members of committees composed of leaders from around the state of Indiana participating in a 10-month Implementation Lab (referred to as an iLab), an intensive collaborative that will result in a comprehensive, statewide plan to increase the number of available modern youth apprenticeships for juniors and seniors in high school.

The iLab’s members are divided into committees that focus on the roles of relevant stakeholder groups – employers, high schools and higher education institutions. Funston is one of two co-chairs of the high school committee, on which Kendall, Koontz, and Sanders also serve; Wiebe serves on the higher education committee; and Cripe serves on the policy committee.

The iLab is being led by Ursula Renold, Ph.D., and Katie Caves, Ph.D., of the Center on Economics and Management of Education and Training Systems (CEMETS) at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), who are considered the world’s preeminent experts in workplace learning research and implementation.

The iLab’s members include leaders in business, education, government and philanthropy, many of whom became supporters of the modern youth apprenticeship movement during a September 2023 Indy Chamber Leadership Exchange trip to see Switzerland’s system in action. The Swiss are internationally recognized for their system, with two-thirds of 10th graders entering a three- or four-year paid apprenticeship from about 250 different occupations spanning all sectors of the economy. While on the trip, Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and iLab co-chair, announced a $180,000 grant that would allow CEMETS to host an iLab in Indiana.

Elkhart County leaders took a similar fact-finding trip to Switzerland and Germany in 2017 that eventually led to the 2019 launch of CareerWise Elkhart County with a first cohort of 11 local high school juniors and seniors advancing their education and career development through apprenticeship.

The iLab is specifically targeting how to scale youth apprenticeship across three industry groupings – banking and insurance, life sciences and healthcare, and advanced manufacturing – all of which face increasing talent shortages. Also, a key deliverable of the iLab is the recommendation of a governing and operating structure that can oversee the work to scale youth apprenticeship statewide, eventually spanning all sectors of Indiana’s economy.

The ultimate goal of CEMETS iLab Indiana is to ensure that by 2034, every student and adult learner in Indiana has access to high-quality education and training options. Reaching this goal will enable all Hoosiers to discover their passions, reach their fullest potential, and meaningfully contribute to the economic and civic vitality of their communities.

Because of the Fairbanks Foundation’s years-long investment to bring the modern youth apprenticeship system to Indiana, it is providing subject matter expertise and partnering with CEMETS leadership to oversee the iLab from inception to completion. Ascend Indiana, the talent and workforce development initiative of Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, is providing project management for iLab committees, offering opportunities for industry leaders to see apprenticeships in action, and coordinating convenings of iLab stakeholders. 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 their work with the iLab. Ascend will also support industry-specific trips for iLab committee members.

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