Exploring European Work Based Learning to Drive Indiana Next Steps

Indiana Manufacturers Association

Created over 120 years ago, the Indiana Manufacturers Association (IMA) is the second oldest manufacturers association in the country and the only trade association in Indiana that exclusively focuses on manufacturing. IMA is dedicated to advocating for a business climate that creates, protects, and promotes quality manufacturing jobs in Indiana. 

The Challenge

In 2018, IMA leadership set out to position Indiana as an emerging global leader for innovative, future-focused work-based learning models. Specifically, the client desired to develop a greater understanding of work and learn models offered in Germany and Switzerland, and how those models might be adapted to Indiana’s education and workforce development system.  

Research and Feasibility 

TPMA developed a 2-phase methodology that included intensive research into successful work-based learning models (with an emphasis on models in Germany and Switzerland) and the feasibility of adapting those models to Indiana.  

Phase I focused on research, comprising a European apprenticeship model review and comparison, a benchmark study of other US state initiatives, and a review of current Indiana initiatives. TPMA used what was gathered through this research to identify critical elements that could be incorporated into an evidence-based and effective Indiana model.  

In Phase II, TPMA conducted 40+ interviews of leadership and key stakeholders within Indiana’s talent development system. TPMA also engaged the input of many additional Indiana thought leaders via an online survey. Through detailed conversation and the qualitative survey, TPMA was able to gather successes, failures, concerns, and general commentary to help shape a feasible work-based learning model to be implemented within the state of Indiana.

Key Findings From Germany and Switzerland

In Switzerland, “lower secondary school” ended at grade 9 (equivalent to the completion of junior high school in the United States). From there, students chose between a vocational or academic track. 70% of students entered the vocational track while 25% of students chose academic. More than 240 occupations with progressive wages were counted for students on the vocational track.

In Germany, at 4th grade (10 -11-year-olds) students were required to take an aptitude test that determined their secondary pathway. Three pathway options were identified in skilled trades, commerce, or university. Half of individuals starting a career between the ages of 25- 40 had received some form of vocational training beyond “turning a screw”.

Research that Leads to Action

Fast forward 6 years later, IMA and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) have coordinated multiple visits to the Center on Economics and Management of Education and Training Systems (CEMETS) in Switzerland. CEMETS is considered the preeminent experts in workplace learning research and implementation.

In 2024, more than 100 Indiana leaders  joined a coalition to develop a statewide modern youth apprenticeship system. With the guidance of CEMETS, a statewide model is in the works that allows 11th grade high school students to participate in a three-year, paid work-and-learn program.