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Home-schoolers may need GED before getting job at NiSource, company says

NiSource, the parent company of NIPSCO, says they require job applicants who have graduated from a homeschool to also obtain a GED — even though a homeschool diploma is legally recognized as a valid high school diploma in Indiana.

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 7:00 a.m.

One company’s approach to hiring may have significance for Indiana home-schoolers. 

NiSource, an energy company with locations in Indiana (NIPSCO) and several other states says it requires a job applicant who has a home-school diploma to also obtain a GED or other high school equivalency in order to be eligible for jobs that require a minimum of a high school education. 

They say a GED is required because the different states they operate in have different rules regarding certification of home school and non-traditional forms of study. 

Indiana doesn't distinguish between a home school diploma and any other high school diploma, says Daniel Altman of the state education department — both diplomas mean the student has completed high school satisfactorily. 

But other states NiSource operates in do not share Indiana’s stance on the home school diploma.

Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio, for example, acknowledge that an employer may ask home-schooled job candidates to also get a GED, while Pennsylvania authorizes specific organizations to issue state-approved diplomas to home-schooled students. 

Mike Banas, a spokesperson for NiSouce, said the company is happy to hire people who have been home-schooled and several current employees are home school graduates. 

The requirement that home-schooled employees have a GED is there so the company can ensure equal and fair hiring at all locations in several states, he said. 

“More than half — nearly 2,000 — of NiSource jobs in Indiana have minimum educational requirements of a state-certified high school diploma or GED,” Banas wrote in an email to The Elkhart Truth. “Educational requirements are verified as part of the background check, which is completed once a job offer, contingent on the results of the check, is made.”

He also added a home-schooled applicant who has completed education beyond high school would not need to get a GED, because the company only verifies the highest level of education an applicant has achieved. 

NiSource recently attracted the attention of nonprofit homeschool advocacy group Home School Legal Defense Association, when HSLDA said NiSource rescinded a job offer to an individual after discovering the person had graduated from a homeschool and did not have a GED.

Banas said this recent incident is “unfortunate,” but the hiring of home-schooled people at NiSource has not been an issue for the company before that happened.

Kathy Balke, regional representative for Elkhart County for the Indiana Association of Home Educators, said it’s not typical for Indiana home-schooled students to get a GED in addition to their homeschool diploma.

She has not heard of any instance where a student has been turned away from a job because he or she did not have a GED.

“I have graduated five students and I give my own diploma,” she said, adding that every home-schooling family is different and some families may chose to have a company to issue their student’s diploma.

Her five children are now adults and have never experienced any issues with getting a job or going to college with their home-school diploma, Balke said.

American Electric Power, another energy company with locations in Indiana and other states, says they follow each state’s requirement of what counts as a valid high school diploma, instead of adopting a blanket policy for all their locations. 

“If that home-school diploma is recognized by the state as being a valid diploma, we would accept that,” said AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry.

According to that practice, home-schoolers applying for a job with AEP in Indiana would qualify for jobs requiring a high school education, but home schoolers applying for the same type of job with NiSource would not — unless they also obtained a GED. 

Jobs at NiSource that require a minimum of a high school diploma include: lineman, customer service representative, meter reader, serviceman, coal handler, station mechanic, fleet equipment mechanic, equipment operator and others.

Jobs at AEP that require a minimum of a high school diploma include: call center operator, customer service representative, some administrative positions and some entry-level line mechanic jobs.

Kevin Brinegar, president of Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said it’s common for employers to require a high school diploma or GED for certain jobs, but he doesn't know if Indiana employers treat a home-school diploma differently than a diploma from another high school. 

“This is the first time I've heard of a situation like this — I can’t tell you what percentage of employers accept a home-school diploma and what percentage don’t,” he said. “But it is an employer’s right to chose to recognize or not recognize certain education based on their experience of what makes a good employee.”

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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