Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

South Bend School Corp. receives multi-million dollar federal grant to invest in career-focused programs

South Bend School Corporation Headquarters building in February 2024.
Marek Mazurek, WVPE
South Bend School Corporation Headquarters building in February 2024.

Armed with a multi-million dollar federal grant, the South Bend school corporation is looking to enhance its career training options as plans continue surrounding a full-on career center.

State guidelines have shifted over the past few years to require that students graduating high school in Indiana receive more career training than in the past.

Those changes have led to districts around the state investing in job training and career-based programming.

The South Bend School Corp. has followed suit, starting career-based computer science and engineering magnet programs at Riley High School and a health science magnet at Washington High School.

Now, the district prepares for a new wave of investment into programming aimed at workforce development thanks to a $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

That grant will combine with already awarded federal money in the GEAR UP program at Riley, and referendum dollars set aside for a career center to total over $20 million the district plans to spend over the next five years in career exploration and job training.

“When you align workforce development, higher education, career and technical ed, and your K-12 system in a way that best benefits the students, now you have a powerful mix of opportunity,” said the district’s assistant superintendent of college and workforce readiness Chad Addie.

Addie said the recent federal grant has a mechanism for additional funding, meaning South Bend could receive over $8 million in total over the coming years.

That money will go toward a variety of programs which give district students more opportunities to develop job training skills. At the high school level, that funding can pay for job certifications or for expanded internship and summer programs that give students more career training.

“A lot of schools are talking about ‘Someday you’ll be doing the work out there after high school.’ Someday for our students is now,” Addie said.

The grant can also be used to pay for dual credit programs and for additional career coaches and instructors. Beyond that, Addie said the district is looking at programs to get kids in elementary school exposure to different career paths as part of the grant too.

The district’s recently announced partnership with the Purdue Polytechnic Charter system could also benefit from some of the funding.

As assistant U.S. education secretary Amy Loyd said in a video announcing South Bend had won the grant, job training for high school students is a priority at the federal level as well.

“Our nation has great demand for, and powerful solutions to, blurring the lines to secondary, post secondary and the world of work so that all young people have pathways to rewarding futures,” Loyd said.

Locally, the $5.2 million grant comes as the South Bend School corp. Has already set aside close to $9 million in referendum funding to build a fully fledged career center.

St. Joseph County is the largest county in Indiana without a career center, and local leaders with the South Bend Chamber of Commerce and enFocus have worked to drum up support for the concept in the past few years.

Students from all over the county could take classes at the center, though a majority are projected to be kids attending from South Bend schools, which is why the district is leading discussions.

In May of last year, a search committee set its sights on the Renaissance District on the south side of downtown as the best option for a center, however hesitation from some members of the South Bend school board has stalled the project since then.

Addie told WVPE that the new federal grant will go towards hiring positions and acquiring equipment for the career center, though none of the money can go towards construction costs. Addie declined to give concrete details, but said the topic will be discussed at upcoming board meetings.

“A referendum was raised and there will be other community partners who I believe will go ‘Oh don’t leave us behind,” he said.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.