INDIANAPOLIS – Dozens of Indiana schools and organizations will receive grants aimed at better preparing students for their careers.

Some of the funding, more than $57 million total, will reach kids as early as kindergarten.

“It’s that early exposure for students to be able to identify what pathways they want to pursue,” said Rebecca Rahschulte, vice president of K-14 initiatives and statewide partnerships at Ivy Tech Community College.

Ivy Tech has received $1.1 million in grants to launch several new career-focused programs in 12 school districts, Rahschulte said. That includes virtual reality programming for K-8 students, giving them a close look at different careers, she added.

“That opportunity to experience the day in the life of an individual in manufacturing, in health care or in information technology,” Rahschulte said.

Ivy Tech is among nearly 100 schools and organizations awarded grants meant to expand career programs and college course offerings to Indiana students. The grants are distributed by the state and paid for with federal COVID relief dollars, according to Holly Lawson, deputy director of communications for the Indiana Department of Education.

“We know that these pathways have been interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lawson said.

One of the goals behind the grants is to help more students choose a career path early, which could allow them to start earning college credit or another credential while in high school, Lawson explained.

“That, one, saves them money along the way and saves them a lot of time,” she said. “They’re more likely to ultimately earn that credential and then see the success that that brings throughout their lives.”

The grants will also help more students experience work-based learning programs such as internships, Lawson said.

Ivy Tech hopes to launch its new career programs in the fall of 2023 and eventually expand the offerings to more school districts, Rahschulte said.