Indiana Seeks to Make Work Skills a Priority

Indiana Seeks to Make Work Skills a Priority

Citing research from Georgetown University showing almost all new jobs require more than a high school diploma, such as internships, apprenticeships and career credentials, the Indiana state legislature ordered Indianapolis education officials to rethink the mission of high schools, according to The 74.

Current graduation requirements will be dismissed next year and new ones calling for more career preparation will take their place.

“Are the four years of high school as valuable as possible for students?” state education secretary Katie Jenner asked in an interview with The 74. “I’ve yet to meet a person who said, ‘Yes, they are.’ Most people say … if high school looked different for students, then we could better connect them to what’s next.”

“If that’s the case, then what barriers do we need to get out of the way?” she continued. “How can we transform it in order to make it better for students.” 

Jenner said having students spend time in workplaces to see what careers fit them, or earning career credentials, will help both students and businesses.

“That’s really what we’re trying to think through in Indiana, to not only better support Indiana students, but to also be mindful of Indiana’s talent pipeline,” Jenner said.

Indiana already has a requirement students show “demonstrable employability skills” to graduate from high school, but it currently counts playing on a school team, other extracurricular activities, community service, an after-school job or a capstone research project the same as doing an internship or apprenticeship.

The new requirements will be more work and skills-focused.

Among the key items being discussed in focus groups:

  • A greater emphasis on students’ job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships that only “a tiny percentage” of students experience now, according to Jenner.
  • Changing the courses required to graduate.
  • Requiring more meeting time with career counselors or businesses
  • Requiring students to earn credentials for careers before graduating.
  • Piloting “mastery” approaches to measuring student progress, throwing out traditional A-F grades, replacing them with tracking student progress toward their mastery or competency of skills. Workplace skills like teamwork and critical thinking would be measured, not just core subjects like English and math.


The efforts are attracting some national attention. Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Excellence In Education Foundation, visited Indianapolis this fall to praise the state for being a national leader in preparing students for careers, not just college.

Though Indiana is better than other states in helping students earn credentials, Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Excellence In Education Foundation, warned too many students are being guided to many credentials businesses aren’t seeking.

“Nearly 60 to 70 percent of the credentials earned by high school students that year had no value,” she said of Indiana. “No company was asking for those credentials, right? Students were earning something that didn’t have currency in the marketplace.”

Schools, like Victory College Prep high school in Indianapolis, are already on board with the main idea of the change. That school has placed every 11th and 12th grader in internships with companies or nonprofits for 10 school days a year the last five years, other than some pandemic adjustments.

The 74

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