West Central CTE selected for youth apprentice pilot


Ascend Indiana, the talent and workforce development initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, has received a $1.7 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation and a $750,000 grant from the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship to scale youth apprenticeship programs across Indiana.

Ascend acts as an intermediary, assisting organizations to start youth apprenticeship programs by building capacity, sharing resources and providing access to state and national partners. 

The grant from the Walton Family Foundation was awarded to CICP Foundation Inc. to advance the charitable activity of Ascend Indiana, and will establish a second cohort of five sites statewide that will each receive $25,000 to design their youth apprenticeship pilots.

A subset of those sites will be chosen to receive added funding to launch their youth apprenticeship pilots as part of the Indiana Youth Apprenticeship Accelerator. Ascend launched the Accelerator in 2021 to expand work-based learning programs and to develop a coordinated education-to-career ecosystem that provides all students across the state, in both urban and rural areas, with additional opportunities to obtain necessary skills for today’s workforce.

One of the five cohort sites chosen is West Central Indiana Career and Technical Education Center, which serves students from Crawfordsville, North Montgomery, Southmont and Western Boone high schools.

“The decision to develop a Youth Apprenticeship program in our region is driven by the evolving landscape of CTE and the opportunities in our community for students to directly enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills gained through CTE involvement,” said West Central IN CTE Director Sara Nicodemus. “West Central IN CTE and all of its partners firmly believe that introducing Youth Apprenticeship programs is a crucial step forward in aligning education with the changing needs of industries and in providing students with a competitive edge in the job market.”

The other sites selected are: the Center of Workforce Innovations in Valparaiso, which serves northwest Indiana (Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, Starke counties); Eastern Indiana Works in Muncie, which serves Bartholomew, Decatur, Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Hancock, Henry, Madison, Randolf, Rush, Shelby, Wayne, Union counties; Southern Indiana Education Center in Jasper, which serves Crawford, Dubois, Martin, Perry and Spencer counties; and Southern Indiana Works in New Albany, which serves Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott, Washington counties.

“The generous support from the Walton Family Foundation will pave the way for exponential impact, establishing modern youth apprenticeship as a sought-after talent strategy for employers and a successful education and career pathway for students in Indiana,” said Jason Kloth, president and CEO, Ascend Indiana. “Youth apprenticeship programs in Indiana are expected to enroll at least 450 new apprentices by fall of 2025.”

The funding will also assist Ascend in growing its Community of Practice, which engages more than 100 members and 60 organizations statewide to actively address systemic barriers to scaling modern youth apprenticeships across the state. The COP convenes practitioners and system builders — including policymakers and state leaders – biannually to share learnings and best practices for youth work-based learning.

In addition, the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship, through New America Foundation, has awarded Ascend Indiana a $750,000 grant to provide continued funding and technical support through the Indiana Youth Apprenticeship Accelerator to the first cohort of Indiana pilot sites that launched in 2021. PAYA is a national consortium of organizations supporting states and cities in their efforts to expand access to high-quality apprenticeship opportunities for high school-aged youth.

The funding will assist Ascend in expanding the first cohort of the Accelerator, which includes four Indiana youth apprenticeship pilots that have collectively placed nearly 500 high school students with employers to date. These pilots are operated by Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc. (Indiana Uplands), OptIN/Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Foundation (Southern Indiana), The Pursuit Institute (Hamilton County) and EmployIndy (Indianapolis).

Support from PAYA will also further enable the ongoing efforts and impact of the statewide COP.

“Youth apprenticeship is an innovative post-secondary strategy that better connects the learning needs of students with the talent needs of industry,’’ said Taylor White, director, Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship & Postsecondary Pathways for Youth at New America. “Ascend’s Accelerator model is pioneering a new way to support the growth of high quality, locally grown youth apprenticeship programs that expand opportunity for young adults and their communities. Through the Accelerator and the statewide Community of Practice, Ascend is leading a two-pronged effort to build strong programs and strong policy and systems to promote quality, sustainability, and scale. We are proud to continue our support for Ascend’s leadership in Indiana’s burgeoning youth apprenticeship movement and look forward to the progress ahead.’’