Cultivating careers: Noblesville Schools working around new law to continue providing students opportunities

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A law passed in the 2018 legislative session is negatively affecting Noblesville Schools to the tune of $15,000 annually.

In July, the district learned the state law, House Enrolled Act 1002, changes the way schools recieve support money from the state for offering specific career pathway programs through internships.

Sara Haddad is a 2018 Noblesville High School graduate and former nursing intern at Riverview Health. (Submitted photos)

The law requires that all students in a Work Based Learning Capstone Course internship be paid by the employer or business offering the internship.

The law went into effect July 1 and will affect most school districts in the 2019-20 school year, but Alaina Shonkwiler, workforce development coordinator for Noblesville Schools, said she and Mark Wilkinson, the district’s internship coordinator, have already been working to place high school juniors in their senior internships.

Shonkwiler, however, said when district officials learned about the change, they decided it would be in the best interest of current and future students to not follow suit, meaning the district will be ineligible for approximately $15,000 in state funds each year to help support the internship program.

“The high school leadership has decided that they’re going to be focused on doing what’s best for kids, even though it means we’re going to lose approximately $15,000 a year,” said Marnie Cooke, communicators director for Noblesville Schools. “It’s more important to serve all of the kids in the program.”

“The money is given to provide incentive to schools to push students into high-need areas,” NHS Principal Jeff Bryant said. “I think the internship program prepares students for the workforce better than any other program that high schools offer. The shame in all of this is that someone somewhere felt that that the only useful internships were the ones that were paid, and that’s just not true. Although our students aren’t getting paid, it often costs the employer time and resources to host these students. This is just misguided legislation.”

Each spring, Noblesville High School holds a Workforce Signing Day, similar to a college sports signing day, for students who immediately earned jobs or entered the military upon graduation.

The NHS internship program is the largest in the state, with approximately 300 students enrolled and more than 250 business partners who offer opportunities to students.

The program is open to all NHS seniors with no GPA requirement. During the seven years the program has existed, internships have not been paid. But now, with the new law in effect, seniors completing a specific career pathway program by completing an internship are required to be paid.

“Our belief here at Noblesville is that, with all the interns we have, to suddenly say that we have to pay them all to get back some money, we would lose internships because we have a lot of small business that take kids because it’s a great benefit to the business and to the student,” Wilkinson said.

“It would completely quash any medical intern,” Shonkwiler said. “It’s already challenging enough to get a high school intern into a medical environment because of HIPAA, general privacy and liability, and now we’d be demanding that they pay the student. They don’t have that kind of a budget. They’re doing us a courtesy now by allowing 10 to 15 students in the hospital to do rotations. Basically, we’d lose that opportunity completely.”

Shonkwiler said the courses and internships the district would typically receive funding for require that the district submit information to the state.

“We’re not going to submit that because we know we’re not going to be in compliance with what they’re requesting,” Shonkwiler said. “So, the district is going to take the loss, and it sounds nominal, but $15,000 is still a lot of money, and we’re not the only player in town. It’s Noblesville, it’s (Hamilton) Southeastern, Fishers, Westfield, (Hamilton) Heights, Guerin (Catholic). All of those schools have an internship program.

“It doesn’t matter what your GPA is or if you have behavioral issues or attendance issues because everyone’s going to be entering the workforce at some point,” Shonkwiler said. “Our goal is to give the students a launching pad, and if the state continues to close the door on us with some of these small business partners, we won’t be able to give the same opportunities.”

HEA 1002 was authored by State Rep. Todd Huston (R-District 37) and lobbied by the Indiana Manufacturers Association. The vote on the bill was unanimous and received no nay votes in either the Indiana House of Representatives or Indiana Senate.


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