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Ascend awards youth apprenticeship grants

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INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The state’s talent and workforce development initiative is awarding nearly $350,000 in grants to support three youth apprenticeship programs throughout the state. Ascend Indiana says the funding is part of an effort to establish a connected youth apprenticeship network in Indiana.

Bloomington-based Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc., the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Foundation, and the Hamilton County Center for Career Achievement will each receive $115,000, plus technical assistance to support the launch or expansion of a youth apprenticeship pilot program in their regions.

The effort is part of the Indiana Youth Apprenticeship Accelerator, which aims to develop postsecondary career pathways for students, as well as in-demand talent pipelines for employers.

B.J. Watts, executive director of OptIN, the apprenticeship program from the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Foundation, says modern youth apprenticeship programs create stackable credentials that allow students to come to an employer with a plan for a career.

“In today’s age, it’s easy to get a student a job. What we want to do is create career for our students and that’s what a modern youth apprenticeship does,” said Watts. “It says, ‘Here’s where you will enter the workforce, but here’s your stairstep. Here’s your road map for where we can get you to where you want to be.'”

Youth apprentices, according to Ascend, start go through a 2-3 year program beginning in their junior year of high school to prepare for careers in various industries, including IT, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and financial services. The program includes classroom learning and paid, on-the-job training with a mentor, with apprentices earning their high school diplomas and industry-recognized credentials, in addition to potentially earning credits toward degree programs.

“It’s incredibly important to us as a tool for growing our talent base because we know that without actually beginning to build relationships between young people, regardless of what preparation or curriculum or instruction they may receive, if we aren’t building a relationship with an employer that begins to bring opportunity to life, then we have a hard time retaining those young people within those pathways and sometimes within our region,” said Tina Peterson, chief executive officer of Regional Opportunity Initiatives.

Ascend Indiana says the grants were made possible with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and being provided in collaboration with the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) at New America.

“Through the generosity of Ascend Indiana and PAYA, we will be able to create comprehensive work-based learning pathways that will provide students the opportunity to earn high school credit, college credit and stackable credentials,” said Carrie Lively, executive director of the Hamilton County Center for Career Achievement. “Students who complete these programs will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully transition onto post-secondary and into the workforce with the ability to succeed.”

The funding and technical assistance support will run through September 2022. 

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