Expanding work-based learning opportunities for high school students and increasing access to robotics as part of two pieces of legislation authored by a Noblesville lawmaker have been approved.
House Enrolled Act 1002, which was led by State Rep. Chuck Goodrich, R-Noblesville, was recently signed into law and is intended to increase high school relevancy by expanding work-based learning opportunities. Goodrich said HEA 1002 creates career scholarship accounts for students that can be used to pay for career training, apprenticeships, certifications and internships.
The new law will also allow quality, work-based learning to count toward high school graduation requirements, according to Goodrich, who is a member of the House Education Committee.
“We know there are employers across the state who are struggling to find qualified candidates for job openings,” Goodrich said. “This is a critical step toward connecting our students with the skills they need for in-demand careers right out of high school.”
The career scholarship accounts can be used by sophomores, juniors and seniors to enroll in earn-and-learn opportunities and can also be used to pay for items such as transportation and uniforms, Goodrich said. The Indiana Dept. of Education and the Commission for Higher Education will approve available courses and tracks, and accounts will be awarded $5,000 under the state’s next two-year budget, officials said.
Goodrich said the legislation incentivizes schools and career centers to partner and bring more experiences to high school students, noting that high schools across the state will host annual career fairs that will allow students and employers to connect with one another. The Indiana State Board of Education will reexamine high school diploma requirements to provide more flexibility in a student’s schedule so they can pursue work-based learning and apprenticeship experiences, officials said.
Goodrich said as part of the legislation, a teacher higher education and industry collaboration grant program and fund will be established that will help teachers engage with colleges and employers to learn about industry needs and employment trends. Goodrich also authored another bill, House Enrolled Act 1382, that creates a grant program to allow schools to establish their own robotics teams and will be supported annually with $4 million in the state’s new two-year budget.
Goodrich said the goal of the new law is to encourage more students to enter STEM careers and stay in Indiana.
“This is an important step toward ensuring young Hoosiers in schools large and small have the ability to explore the innovative and creative world of robotics,” he said.
The Indiana Department of Education will manage the grant fund, which K-12 schools can utilize to create and develop competitive robotics programs, according to Goodrich. Grant funding can be used to pay for a team mentor, supplies, competition costs, in addition to establishing or maintaining teams.
Goodrich also said the grants will help programs provide hands-on learning experiences, foster community partnerships and highlight career opportunities through the use of adult mentors, who will “prioritize a connection to manufacturing and machinery skills.” Goodrich added that Indiana has 3,000 students from 30 percent of school corporations in after-school robotics programs.
He said the bill, which goes into effect July 1, could help grow participation in robotics programs to 18,000 students around the state and noted the legislation was modeled after a similar program in Michigan that saw a 400 percent increase in student population.