Indiana lawmaker to offer pilot program to bring career coaching to schools

INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana state senator wants schools to offer career counseling, potentially starting as early as elementary school.

State Senator Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, is working on a bill that would launch a pilot program to educate students about career options.

There are still a lot of details to work out, Raatz said, but the program could involve special lessons and one-on-one counseling for older students.

“We just need to do a better job, and that’s by no means critical, but definitely help students get a better idea of ​​what they want to do at least by their sophomore year, by the end of it. in their second year. ” Raatz said. “And looking at the learning opportunities in the workplace. “

The goal is to help students determine what career they would like to pursue before entering college so that they can do internships while in high school, Raatz said. It could also help those heading to college start those courses earlier and graduate on time, he added.

“We could envision students coming out of high school with at least one year of college credit and ideally two years of college credit,” he said.

Indiana’s counselor-to-student ratio is about 450 to 1, according to Andrew Smeathers, chair of the Indiana School Counselors Association advocacy committee. That’s nearly double the 250-to-1 ratio recommended by his national organization, he added.

“As counselors, we really have to deal with what’s going on in the classroom, what’s going on at home, what’s going on with peers, and then make sure we set that plan for after high school,” Smeathers said. .

The Indiana School Counselors Association met with Raatz to discuss ways to implement career coaching in schools, Smeathers said.

According to the proposal, schools could hire more counselors specifically for career guidance, according to Raatz.

“The fact that people from the education community come to do this career coaching job that would do us good, because they understand how the school system works,” said Smeathers.

Some educators say they support the concept.

“I think the long-term benefit is that there will be more clarity and understanding as students get closer to this decision-making point,” said Robert Taylor, associate executive director of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.

Rachel Burke, President of Indiana PTA, said she supports the idea of ​​introducing children to various careers, but hopes legislation will prevent schools and counselors from persuading children to choose a path particular, especially at a young age.

“We shouldn’t be telling kids, or adults to be completely blunt, what career they should be headed for,” Burke said. “We should give them options. “

If the proposal becomes law, the program will be tried out in a handful of school districts before the state decides whether it should be expanded statewide, Raatz said.

Details on funding are still pending, but the program could start with being funded through grants or federal funding, Raatz said. Lawmakers would have to wait until the budget is rewritten in 2023 to allocate public funds, he added.

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