Hoosier high school students have a new opportunity to prepare themselves for the workforce thanks to a new apprenticeship model launched by EmployIndy and Ascend Indiana. The organizations say the Modern Apprenticeship program is a paid, work-based learning experience that helps students earn a high school diploma with college credits, as well as professional work experience. The program involves more than a dozen organizations, including the Indianapolis Airport Authority, and Executive Director Mario Rodriguez called the airport’s participation a “no brainer.” 

Rodriguez and EmployIndy Chief Strategy Officer Marie Mackintosh discussed the program on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.

“In order to stay as a world-class facility, we need world-class people and EmployIndy and Ascend are actually providing that. This is what everybody has been asking for,” said Rodriguez. “EmployIndy was able to craft an incredible model that gives us the ability to bring in students, train them, hopefully keep them and give them a career and as our older workforce is retiring, which they are…EmployIndy, using basically a European model…is giving us the opportunity to not only help these kids, but help the organization.”

As part of the initiative, high school juniors will start an apprenticeship with a training company after they’ve chosen an occupation, such as IT, financial services or human resources, they will split their time between school and working at the company for three years, at which point they will have a high school diploma, postsecondary credits and are earning wages.

Rodriguez says the airport has a variety of occupations for students to choose from.

“We have everything from public safety, fire and police that are specialized to airports, to engineering, construction, plumbing, electricians, the whole gamut,” said Rodriguez. “This is a small city with a moving population of about 10 million people on an annual basis coming in and out of here, so you’ve got this incredible opportunity to do a lot of things that (students) may not have even thought we would do.”

The pilot cohort includes up to 30 students from Indianapolis-area township school districts and charter schools such as Indianapolis Public Schools, Phalen Leadership Academy, Pike High School, Washington Township and Victory College Prep.

Mackintosh says she expects the program to become an ongoing effort.

“We’re working hard with all of our partners to expand. We’re already working on our next cohort of employers and there are many who have expressed interest; we’re trying to get their plans in place so that they can welcome these students in and really build on the tradition of apprenticeships that’s existed for a long time in our community, but is now specific to new industries that are really growing tremendously in Indianapolis.”