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October 7, 2013

Pence touts vocational education overhaul plans

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will be in New York City early this week, with some of what’s described as the “top thought leaders and influencers” in education, to talk about his ambitious plans to overhaul vocational education in Indiana’s high schools.

Pence will join two other governors on a panel about state education policy at the fourth annual Education Nation Summit, sponsored by NBC News. The event runs Sunday to Tuesday; the governors’ panel will be today.

The invitation to the summit comes at a time when Pence is pushing to revamp the vocational education curriculum in Indiana’s high schools to make it more relevant to the real-world needs of students and employers.

Among his goals: To dramatically increase the number of students who come out of high school with industry-approved credentials and training that will put them on a path to get a good-paying job.

“The reality is that career and technical education in Indiana is very good in some places and non-existent in others,” Pence said Thursday. “My goal is to make career and vocational education a priority in every high school.”

He has his work cut out for him: Indiana spends more than $100 million a year on vocational education in its high schools, but only turns out a few thousand students a year with an industry-approved credential or certificate that indicates they’ve received job training. Of the 100,000 students who take an initial vocational education class, only about 10,000 continue on to take a second class, to graduate with a concentration in vocational education.

Pence wants to fix that by giving employers more say in what’s taught in high school. He’s created a series of regional career councils, made up of local business leaders and educators, to look the vocational education courses currently being offered and design new ones, if needed, to better match the local needs.

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