INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has an abundance of vocational education opportunities but a poor record of keeping students in the programs and getting them trained in well-paying jobs that demand more technical know-how.
That was the message delivered Friday by an economic development expert to a group of 150 vocational education and work force development officials from around the state.
“You have a lot of students who enter these programs ... but few of them who ever complete,” said Brian Bosworth, president of FutureWorks, a consulting company that has been studying Indiana’s “skills gap.”
Bosworth spoke at the Indiana Education and Workforce Innovation Summit, sponsored by the University of Indianapolis. Earlier in the day, Gov. Mike Pence told the same audience that Indiana needed to do a better job aligning education to the needs of employers if it wanted to reduce the state’s 8.2-percent unemployment rate.
Pence is pushing a plan that would create regional councils around Indiana where businesses and educators would craft curriculum for vocational programs in high schools to better prepare students for local jobs, especially those in manufacturing.
“I think there are going to be opportunities for collaboration and resources far beyond traditional streams,” said Pence.
He also repeated his call to return vocational education “to every high school in Indiana.”
But Bosworth, in his remarks, said the availability of vocational education isn’t the problem. It’s getting students into vocational programs that provide them with the technical skills needed to land a good-paying job, then keeping them in those programs once they get there.
Among the findings that Bosworth shared with his audience: About 100,000 of Indiana’s 330,000 high school students take a vocational education class every year. But only about 10,000 students graduate with both a high school diploma and a concentration — or six credit hours — in a vocational or technical field.