One of the big policy ideas the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association has advocated for this summer includes the expansion of state funding to support Summer Vocational Courses. Our state leaders have worked hard to figure out the best way to support the workforce needs of the future. We think existing school vocational labs and classrooms that sit empty in the summer need to support this issue. Offering more vocational training opportunities in the summer at Indiana Schools would seem like a simple and straightforward solution.
Currently, Indiana Schools don’t offer much vocational training in the summer because it is not funded. Most schools only offer vocational programming during the school year because the first-semester course is the only class that receives additional federal funding based on the student count.
If Indiana offered some funding for summer vocational classes, it would be a win-win-win for all parties.
- More students could access the classes because conflicts in their academic schedule would be removed.
- More internships can be offered when students have time to attend work opportunities without missing academic content.
- More teaching staff would be available, and additional hiring would not need to occur keeping expenses lower..
- Students at private and charter schools could access more job training and vocational programs at public schools and area vocational centers. (This would need to be fully funded by the state.)
- Adult programming could be offered.
- More of the schools’ available workshops and lab spaces are available than during the school year.
An additional benefit included the graduation pathway expectations become more realistic if students have access to vocational programs and internships in the summer. There is a limit to Federal CTE and Perkins funding. However, it does seem like a simple solution that provides more access for all parties. The state will need to use some other source of funding. If we can find $153 million to expand vouchers for private schools, then I’m sure there is some funding for summer workforce development. It is a policy choice. There weren’t enough nickels to go around when we added voucher expenses to the state either. One simple solution would include having the DWD validate Indiana Schools as providers for current Adult Programming. We have 300 potential vocational training centers in every county sitting empty being cooled and cleaned for two and a half months each year.
Engaged local employers have a great track record of supporting some equipment needs in some communities. For the ISRSA it is logical to focus on programming that supports the local economy. Local employers would need to be part of the conversation with local schools on what the school should offer. Sometimes we have local employers and vocations that don’t show up on a DWD website because they are regionally significant. (Swine Processing in North Central Indiana, Cabinetmaking in Dubois County, Watercraft Mechanics in Wawasee, etc.) Our organization also wants to support local industries that provide people with economic opportunity in their community. We need population stability in Rural Indiana. The reality is we have a variety of Ag industries throughout Indiana that provides lots of varied job opportunities. These careers don’t seem to be understood at the state level.
We are happy to support the conversation in any way possible. I have shared this policy idea with all the other education advocacy groups, and everyone sees it as an easy and simple idea that all can support. The funding sources can be figured out. We realize there is not an endless supply of funding. However, we also realize about 40 counties have no access to an Ivy Tech Campus within their border. We think our schools can be a community center not just for students but for adults.
Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association.