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$7 million initiative aims to connect IPS students with high-paying careers

“Exploring Careers” books on a desk at Crispus Attucks High School, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana. — April 2019 — Photo by Alan Petersime/Chalkbeat

Over five years, EmployIndy will work with IPS, Ivy Tech Community College, and IUPUI to prepare students for better-paying career opportunities.

Alan Petersime/Chalkbeat

Indianapolis Public Schools will get a boost from a new $7 million initiative to better prepare local students for career opportunities, in the hopes of improving economic mobility in the city. 

Indianapolis is among five U.S. cities each receiving $7 million through a JPMorganChase career readiness initiative announced Tuesday. The national banking giant identified the cities as those lacking strong job growth, low unemployment, or an ability to attract outside talent.

During the next five years, EmployIndy, the workforce organization leading the initiative in Indianapolis, will work with IPS, Ivy Tech Community College, and IUPUI to give students skills and experiences that can lead to better-paying career opportunities. 

“Creating career pathways became something really important to us,” IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said. “The reality is our job as a K-12 system is to make sure that our students have the knowledge and the skills to succeed once they leave us.” 

Officials did not announce how the funding will be divided among the local partners. They will spend the first year planning, said Marie Mackintosh, EmployIndy’s chief strategy officer. 

At IPS, the money will go toward college and career academies at the district’s four high schools: Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, George Washington, and Shortridge. The district also plans to hire a new K-8 choice specialist who will help middle school students decide which career academy would be best for their goals. 

Ivy Tech will use some of the funding to hire a post-secondary adviser to go into IPS high schools to help students choose classes and smooth the transition for students who choose to attend the community college. 

And lastly, Mackintosh said, IUPUI will provide better data to help students decide which major they want to pursue at IUPUI. 

The initiative will help the partners work together to look at what jobs are in demand and how to prepare students for those careers. The ultimate goal is to give more IPS students access to “high-quality pathways” in fields such as information technology, health care, and finance, which can lead to upward career mobility, Mackintosh said.  

EmployIndy officials want to see the number of high school students in high-quality pathways increase 60% by the 2024-25 school year. They want to double the number of postsecondary students who pursue jobs that will eventually lead to middle-class wages — and double the number of students who end up in those careers. 

“Through this initiative, we will have a singular way that the city looks at how economic growth is leading to different types of jobs and what that means for how we’re training and educating our young people to be ready for those kinds of jobs,” Mackintosh said. 

One of the looming challenges from the pandemic is that high school students could be dealing with significant learning loss, trying to catch up while also working toward career preparation. 

“If they are behind in the basics of the foundational education components of reading or math, then it’s harder for them to be able to benefit and participate in these programs,” Mackintosh said. 

In the past, IPS and its partners received a $1 million donation from JPMorganChase to create a program within the school district called Talent Bound. It is a series of work-based learning experiences, career days, internships, and industry site tours.

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