NCSL Podcasts

New Career Paths for Young People | OAS Episode 208

Episode Summary

Two legislators from Indiana and Maryland with deep expertise in work-based learning programs such as apprenticeships and credential programs sat down to discuss how programs in their states are offering youth more post-secondary options.

Episode Notes

College enrollment among young people has been in a steady decline, according to research from Pew. Some indicators show young people increasingly turning toward apprenticeships and other work-based learning and credential programs that help them get a good job.

Indiana and Maryland have been leaders in the field and on this podcast, we sat down with two legislators intimately involved in the issue--Rep. Bob Behning (R-Ind.) and Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Md.)

Behning said participation in an NCSL study group helped inform legislation he has pursued to ensure more options for youth employment and to destigmatize technical education. Augustine explained the approach Maryland has taken to youth employment and the role of the Maryland Apprenticeship 2030 Commission in shaping future efforts.



Episode Transcription

Ed:      Hello and welcome to “Our American States,” a podcast from the National Conference of State Legislatures. I’m your host, Ed Smith. 


BB:      If we really want to get serious about work-based learning and apprenticeships which I think is really a critical component to work-based learning is how do we take a student and put them into an employer where they are actually being paid at the same time they are learning


Ed:      That was Representative Bob Behning, a Republican from Indiana and chair of the House of Education Committee. He is one of my guests on this podcast along with Maryland Senator Malcolm Augustine, a Democrat. Both of them are deeply involved in legislation aimed at offering young people post-secondary opportunities other than college. College enrollment among young people has been at a steady decline according to research from PEW. Indications are young people are increasingly turning toward apprenticeships and other work-based learning and credential programs that help them get a good job.


            Indiana and Maryland have been leaders in the field and this was a great opportunity to talk with two legislators intimately involved in the issue. Representative Behning said participation in an NCSL study group helped inform legislation he has pursued to ensure more options for youth employment and to destigmatize technical education. He discussed Indiana’s efforts to ensure all students have either a work-based learning experience or a leadership or community development opportunity. 


            Senator Augustine explained the approach that Maryland is taking to youth employment and the role of the Maryland Apprenticeship 2030 Commission in shaping future efforts. Here is our discussion starting with Representative Behning.


Representative Behning, welcome to the podcast.


BB:      Thank you. Glad to be here.


Ed:      Now you’ve been very involved in promoting work-based learning, apprenticeships and helping youth getting experience through work. In fact, one of my colleagues told me you were probably one of the top people in the country in terms of pursing these policies in state legislature. And I wonder if you can talk about the current landscape of youth employment in Indiana and how this landscape has changed over the years that you’ve been working on it.


BB:      I would start give you a little bit of history about how we got to where we are today and where we are going. I was involved with NCSL was invited in ’12 to join the International Study Group. We were looking at best practices across the world. It was probably one of the most significant programs I’ve ever been in in terms of a legislator, in terms of seeing what is going on in the rest of the world and how they take what we are doing right and apply how they take we could take what they are doing. And really that’s where I was initially exposed to the fact that core technical education in our country is looked at a thing that basically education leaders would say that’s where they send kids who don’t have the cognitive ability to be successful in a traditional program so let’s send them to a CTE center. Most of the rest of the world, especially a lot of our competitors, look at it totally different. They look at CTE as a place to go for kids to do exploration and as a kind of a step up. It’s not a dead end and it’s not some place you’d push kids off to. So, that was really a big reflection for me and a turning point. I actually came back from one of our international study groups meeting. I have a friend who had been in the governor’s office who had left the governor’s office and now was at Richard and Fairbanks Foundation, which is a foundation in Cary, Indianapolis and was sharing with her how profound I thought some of the things we had were learning in international study group was and it piqued her interest. And she has actually been and the Richard and Fairbanks Foundation have been huge investors in studies in Indiana, which really has kind of facilitated and accelerated all of our interest.


We started kind of down this pathway several years ago when we decided to eliminate--we had a GQE where it graduation qualifying exam. We used to have used to have to be that you had to pass either I-Step 10 or an ECA. And we started to think a one-time test does not necessarily determine what kind of currency you are going to have when you walk across the stage. I can’t go to an employer and say I’m Bob Behning and I just passed my ISTEP 10. You know, I’m qualified to go into work. So, we decided to redesign our what we call pathways now and so we created a graduation pathway and we have nine different options for kids and one of the requirements is that work-based learning and it’s a requirement for all kids to have work-based learning or some sort of leadership development or community service component. So that’s required for all of our students. The first class was the class of 23, but schools could opt in before that. And we had a number of schools opt in before.


So, it has been something that has been very well received. Initially the establishment hated the program. That was they didn’t like it at all because of some of the requirements in there. But today it has been embraced in a big way. If we really want to get serious about work-based learning and apprenticeships which I think is really a critical component to work-based learning is how do we take a student and put them into an employer where they are actually being paid at the same time they are learning. We have done a number of things where we have attempted to facilitate that accelerated. Well last year, we passed House Bill 1002, which created career scholarship accounts which are up to $5,000 given to students. It could be an apprenticeship. It could pay for tools, transportation, etc. And that started the process where we started diploma redesign. We accelerated even more this year. I had a bill, House Bill 1243, where it accelerated it even more. March 27, our department released I think probably the first in the nation a diploma track that would actually embed work-based learning and give credit for students towards a diploma in a work-based learning experience.


Ed:      Well, that is a huge amount of work. I’m surprised at how extensive it is. That’s quite remarkable. Let me ask you, this is part of that legislation last year as I understand it, it requires students to explore their career options and what does that mean exactly and why is that so important?


BB:      We are not trying to be Switzerland. We understand Switzerland as you look at models across the country and across the world, I would suggest that Switzerland has there’s a lot of things that are similar to the United States that are similar in Switzerland. I mean for us in Indiana, Switzerland is about the same size as the state of Indiana. Switzerland is not socialized at the level that a lot of Europe is. Switzerland actually in the freedom index is like third in the world and the United States is like 17th. Tax structures are very similar. They don’t have socialization. There’s a lot of comparability to Switzerland. So, we are not necessarily trying to emulate Switzerland, but we have looked at them for a lot of guidance in terms of how to move this more quickly. And the thing that we found in Switzerland, for instance, if you are an 8th grader in Switzerland, you actually do a job shadowing where you spend two to three days to a week where you actually go to an employer and shadow an employer to see if this might be a work-based learning experience that you would like to apply for. And we are trying to do more in Indiana to make sure that we are exposing kids earlier. I mean waiting until they are in high school is way too late in many cases especially when they are, you know, a junior or senior because we are looking at doing work-based learning experiences as junior and seniors, we need to have these exploration opportunities much earlier which is what we try to do and we will continue HEA 1002 from 23 was our first launch into it. We did a little bit some tweaks this year. We will continue to do some additional tweaks. There are some things in 1002 next year that I will coming back and changing, career exploration in post-secondary in the collegiate level. To me, it is at a junior year which is too late. We need to push that down into like a freshman year, etc. 


            Anyway, that was really the accelerant or the reason to kind of start looking at that more robustly. We’ve also had a process over the last several years too where we are doing 3 E’s which are explore, engage, experience. So, we have kind of embedded those into our philosophy for students moving forward so they younger they have the opportunity to explore you know when they are in middle school they can engage a little bit more. And then experience is when they have the opportunity to actually be in an on-job experience. We are really pushing that in terms of career counseling, etc. and coaching. We think that is a very important thing. I will say that is a kind of interesting caveat on that too, we have kind of deliberately kept this out of the hands since there’s been a little bit of controversy over time or pushback, out of the hands of school counselor. We want it to be more employer based because we believe that if we are going to be serious about work-based learning, they need to understand what’s available in their community. A lot of times when you look at school counselors, no discredit to them. I actually employ a number of school counselors in my private sector world. They have been in K-12 system most of them their entire life and not necessarily at all in the private sector and we want to make sure we are kind of connecting students to the private sector in a robust way.


            TM:  10:08


Ed:      Given all of this, the career education, the work-based learning, the apprenticeships, how is this working out?  What kind of an effect have you seen at least so far. I know it always takes a while for these things to show results.


BB:      Great question. I wish I could tell you that we figured it all out. Candidly, I think we are farther ahead than many states. In my private sector role, I feel like if I’m going to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk. And so, I actually have an apprentice that works for me. One of the struggles I have had and this is one of the things that we are trying to tweak through is the fact that the student comes in at 3:15 and works till 5:00. And I work in a university. We are kind of a separate unit from the university and we actually work with K-12 schools so a lot of my staff comes in at 7 and leaves at 4. And so, I don’t have alignment with him plus two hours a day there is just there is not enough continuity there. There is not enough time for somebody to really dig in and get something done. So, one of the things that we know we have to fix and we are working on with the diploma change would be the fact that we need two full days a week to be given to a work-based learning experience. Not bits and pieces throughout the week, but ideally two full days. So, we are working on it.


In terms of where we are as you said, it is a long process, changing a system. The country embraced the Carnegie units, for instance. … We are one of four states, I don’t know if it has been announced yet, but we will be announced soon that we will be one of four states that they are going to be working with to rethink the Carnegie units and actually our new diploma model has been released and up for public comment right now. It moves away from Carnegie units. So, you start moving away from seat time and look more at mastery-based type of program. It’s going to give us a lot more opportunity I think to accelerate this much faster. 


Ed:      Well, let me ask you about all the different areas. There is an awful lot of stuff that sort of falls under this umbrella the work-based learning earns while you learn credentials program so on and so forth. Can you talk about how Indiana has managed to juggle all these wide arrays of these employment opportunities?


BB:      If I were suggesting to someone looking at trying to put this together, one of the things that we have done that is working effectively if we move away from the opticals is we’ve created in HB 1002, what I would call intermediaries. We already had several of them in place. We have a group called Ascend Indiana. There is a group up north called Horizon Education Alliance. There is one in the south called ROI. They are in between the schools and employers. If you are going to be successful at this, you really need somebody to be kind of the glue between the two. Unfortunately, schools don’t know what employers need and employers really don’t know what is going on in the schools. So having somebody in the middle has been very helpful. And in Indianapolis, Marion County for instance, the organization is called EmployIndy. The apprentice that I have here was recruited through EmployIndy. That really is kind of the glue that you need to pull this together and it’s the one thing I think we need to do. Make sure that every part of the state has an intermediary that will kind of help grow this a little bit more quickly. The lingo, for instance, educators use and the acronyms that the employers use it’s kind of like putting two people who don’t even speak the same language in a room and asking them to come together. So, without this intermediary, it is very difficult. 


            One of the examples I can give you I had an Ascend, they had a health care provider up in the Lafayette area had reached out and they said one of the schools was trying to get a work-based learning experience and they wanted to create a physical therapy pathway. The reality is the hospital is like we don’t need physical therapists. We need LPN’s, RN’s and they wanted $250,000 to do the program. And our net health systems was like do we just give them the money to get them out of the room and so we can go on with our business or how do we get the discussion where we can sit down and say we don’t need physical therapists. We need programs like LPN’s, RN’s, medical assistants. Things like that for our system. And have an intermediary in there, it helps facilitate them.


Ed:      I’ve talked to people over the years doing the podcast about other apprenticeship programs and that kind of thing. And sometimes people bring up that some groups of young people whether it be because they are black, brown, disabled don’t get quite as much opportunity. They are not as well represented. One, I wonder if you find that that’s true and if so, are there efforts in Indiana to try to make sure that everybody is getting pulled into this net.


BB:      Statistically I mean you can’t argue the facts. Statistically, you look at that numbers and that’s true. Because it is a requirement in Indiana, it’s a little bit different. And I’ve been very emphatic with anybody that I talk about, it’s not for those kids. It’s for all kids. And I think you have to make sure that we talk about this. It is good for every kid. I was talking to an education leader the other day where we are going to create a pathway for our teachers where we will do, they will do connect teaching. At the same time, we are going to pay them to be teacher’s aides. They are going to be dual credit, dual enrollment. They can use CSAs to help pay for that. One of the other things the barriers I think that a lot of kids of poverty, minorities have is transportation. The one thing that we don’t have in common with the Swiss system is the robust transportation system, public transportation system they have. So, we do allow with the CSA dollars to be used for transportation and I think that’s going to be critical. We’ve done some other things this year where we allowed our traditional public schools to use their transportation dollars for purposes of work-based learning to get kids back and forth. So, but we are very deliberate in making sure that this is not those kids or whatever and. I mean the reverse to that could be that in fact in EmployIndy they actually have a much higher number of minority students than white and they are frequently saying well hey look at this number. I’m like you know let’s be careful about this. We want to make sure that this is, like I said, for all kids. I don’t want the perception and I want to make sure it’s equality option for every kid.


One of the other things that is going to be critical to the system one of the other groups and I will have which I excluded earlier was the higher-ed group. Because one of the other critical mixes to the whole thing is making sure that these students who choose to go through apprenticeship have options beyond the apprenticeships. So, they would actually complete the apprenticeship most all of the time it is going to be post high school graduation. I mean like with EmployIndy, I’m required to provide so many credit hours of post-secondary training. Working for a university that is easy. But making sure that those things are accomplished and the other thing that we are looking at creating is what the Swiss call a professional education training system so it’s a parallel system to the baccalaureate system so you could for instance be in Switzerland and in some of our countries some of our states actually in the United States still have this available at least at some level, you could serve as apprentice for instance in a and want to go into accounting. You could work in a business for four or five years. Work in the accounting office and do all sorts of different master competencies. You can sit for the CPA exam and become a CPA or you could go the baccalaureate track and do the same thing and do it. It would all be book learning. You don’t have any of the work-based learning, but you can get a CPA.


            Another great example of that would be an attorney. An attorney can and there’s a couple of states who actually allow for you to do a work-based learning where you accrue a lot of competencies to be an attorney and you take the State Bar and you can be the same as someone who had gone through law school. The one complexity that we have to solve is how do we make sure that there’s crosswalks across the systems so that if I am this accountant who did a work-based learning experience and I have the equivalency of what would be considered a bachelor’s degree and now I want to go on and get an MBA, how do I make sure that I get that recognition and can go back and forth in the system so that I can go into the baccalaureate system for instance and get an MBA if I choose to. Or, that baccalaureate system can come into the professional system.


            TM:  18:50


Ed:      As we get ready to wrap up, the question I always like to ask legislators is what advice would you give to your colleagues around the country if they want to get involved in this policy area, where should they start?


BB:      Well, I think the one thing that has been helpful to me and I think a lot of people would agree with this is seeing it in practice. Having somebody talk about it like on a podcast or even at a conference, it’s a lot different than seeing it on the ground. I have been to Switzerland numerous times now because of where we are. Every time I go with a different group, I say you need to go when you are out into the public just talk to some of the young people. I mean they are very open in general and ask them what their experience has been because I truly believe seeing it will change your mind. With the 120 people we took over in September and it has been like a revival experience to a lot of people like wow we never thought this was possible. This gives kids the opportunity too to experience something that they may find very attractive, but it may be something this is not what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. And we need to make sure that we design something that doesn’t dead end kids, but I think having that opportunity to really see it in person is great. 


Ed:      Representative, thanks so much. Really a lot of food for thought here and I appreciate you taking the time. Take care.


BB:      No problem. Thank you.


Ed:      I’ll be right back after this short break with Senator Augustine.


            TM:  20:28 break/ad


Ed:      Senator Augustine, welcome to the podcast.


MA:    Good morning. Thank you.


Ed:      You’ve been a champion of work-based learning, apprenticeships, getting youth to get some experience through work and I wonder if you can talk about the current landscape of youth employment in Maryland and how that’s changed over the years.


MA:    Absolutely. Thank you. Employers are hiring and they really need workers. We have some of the lowest unemployment rate here in the country here in Maryland. We got really great jobs that need to be filled and we just need to match the jobs with the Marylanders, our young Marylanders, who want those careers and we have them. They are available. That is a task that we have taken to be you know just front in mount and central for us as we look at the future for youth employment in our state. 


Ed:      So can you talk a little bit about what Maryland has done to connect youth to job training. You know some of the specific things that have gone on there.


MA:    Absolutely. We have an extensive network. We’ve had it for many years of connecting our youth to job opportunities. We have a Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program that’s housed inside our Department of Labor where we have the registered apprenticeships, which of course we know they are very good for business, but there is also a focus and a focused group that looks specifically at youth apprenticeships as the lever towards good careers that sits within that group. And we have sort of like this overarching council here in the state of Maryland, the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Council that is really focused. One of the things it focuses on is trying to make sure that we are moving youth into the apprenticeship opportunities that are in our state.


Ed:      Youth employment encompasses a lot of different areas. Work-based learning, apprenticeship, earn while you learn credential programs and that kind of thing. How do you support that wide of an array of opportunities in Maryland? 


MA:    Well obviously that is a significant cross-section and we here in Maryland wanted to be thoughtful about it and so last year I sponsored legislation that created a Maryland Apprenticeship 2030 Commission. And that 2030 Apprenticeship Commission, its job is to really make sure that we bring those things that you just talked about together. Try to accommodate the actual skill shortages that we have for our demand occupations and then also to provide this affordable training for career pathways for young people in both the public and the private sector. And we have some specific goals that we put into this as well to expand our registered apprenticeships and to grow the number of registered apprentices to at least 60,000 by 2030. It’s a very important goal. We also have a blueprint for Maryland’s future which has to do with our school system. And within that, there is a 45% goal of our high school graduates completing the high school level basically of a registered apprentice within the career and technical education space.


            We have tried to really have this group focused on meeting bringing all those things together that you mentioned.


Ed:      So those are the goals. What do you see right now as the progress you are making towards those. Are you on track?


            TM:  25:22


MA:    As you said, it is a significant matrix. We have been. We’ve been meeting. We brought together the different stakeholders. We have an interim report with some recommendations that really look at how we might be able to streamline some of the regulations that were in some ways creating certain barriers with regard to apprentice, our apprenticeship programs particularly our registered apprenticeship programs. We also look within the stakeholder groups to see novel areas that right now are not within the apprentice registered apprenticeship space, but that might be able to fit. And so, by bringing together these diverse stakeholders this is our task that we are now looking at going forward is in the next year is to look at just that. We also think that we have a job to sell apprenticeship as well to our employers that this is something that can work for them because for some, they have not done this as we look into other areas that some folks would not necessarily consider for apprenticeship.


Ed:      Yeah, I know that in Europe it’s a much more and longer standing practice so it’s sort of a cultural change if you will as well, I guess for employers here. Speaking of that, government of course is one piece of this. That’s always the case. But in a situation like this, there is also working with employers, other stakeholders in the space and what kind of success have you had there in Maryland with that group?


MA:    Well again that’s where I am saying that’s been one of the central pieces of our commission is to ensure that the roster of the folks who are there represent different stakeholder groups and industries that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. So yes, of course, we will have labor there who have had historically fantastic great career supporting jobs and apprenticeship pathways for students. But that we also then have representatives from some of the industries that are here in Maryland so Information Technology which is central towards the opportunity space for us in Maryland. Cyber and within that of course Cyber is very important to us and we know that there are certain opportunities that are there that can work. And we also have a significant Bio Medical area and space here in Maryland and so we’ve engaged with these different groups that are in other parts of the world they do have these pathways that are within an apprentice space and we are trying to see how we might be able to make that work here. So, we’ve really worked hard to engage directly with those folks.


            I think it is also similarly important, we also are engaging with the young kids themselves. What is it that they want to do and how do they want to make this thing work for them. I think that it is important that we talk to all of the folks in order to make this shift because it will require a shift. The Earn to Learn is there is right now it is in a specific space, but we want to really expand that space and so that does require some work on our part.


Ed:      Some youth, black youth, brown youth, disabled are often underrepresented in these programs and what kind of effort have you made there in Maryland to try and make sure that those kids are all getting pulled into this as well?


MA:    We have been absolutely deliberate in making sure that we open the doors and that we are inclusive to all Marylanders particularly our boards and our commissions who are making decisions and recommendations that become a part of our policy decisions that they reflect the population of our state which is significantly has a significant population of black and brown folks and those who are living with disabilities. So, by making sure that these groups have a seat at the table so that their perspective is brought to these conversations, their lived experiences are part of it. That’s how we are trying our very best to make sure that these programs will meet the needs of all Marylanders. 


Ed:      As we get ready to wrap up, I always like to ask legislators what they would share with their colleagues around the country. One of the goals of NCSL to be able to try to share information. And I wonder what you would say to other folks in our audience who might be interested in getting involved in this policy area.


MA:    I would say that this is a space that has tremendous, tremendous potential and it’s a forward-looking space. This is one of those things where I find it this is an opportunity where we can have a policy. We can have a policy decision and we can have investments that are going to really pay off in the long term, but we just need to work on it sooner so that this will allow for people to really live out to their full potential. I think it’s very important though that when we try to do these things, we’ve got to listen to all the stakeholders in this process. In this instance, we are talking about the businesses who have these opportunities. It’s the youth who can fill those opportunities and the government and the associated entities and non-profits that can fill that gap in between and be able to provide that space to allow to connect or to help with the connection that is there. I think that in doing those things it can be very, very rewarding and it can lead to really us boosting and filling some of these opportunities that are there that I think that people really could appreciate and could really live a full you know career that really is a rewarding way that we are looking for Marylanders.


Ed:      Well senator, thanks so much for taking the time to walk us through this. It’s such an incredibly important area that I’m glad we are able to have our listeners hear your perspective on it. Take care.


MA:    Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to get to talk to you.


            TM:  31:00


Ed:      I have been talking with Representative Bob Behning of Indiana and Senator Malcolm Augustine of Maryland about efforts in their states to create more opportunities for youth employment. Thanks for listening.


You can check out all the podcasts from the National Conference of State Legislatures by searching for NCSL podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. This podcast “Our American States” dives into some of the most challenging public policy issues facing legislators. On “Across the Aisle” host Kelley Griffin tells stories of bipartisanship. Also check out our special series “Building Democracy” on the history of legislatures.