By Joel Mangan
Submitted by IBM
With a global network of 220 schools, 150,000 students, 200 community colleges and 600 industry partners in 24 countries, P-TECH has become the biggest international public / private education and career readiness initiative of its kind. In the U.S., there are 127 P-TECH schools in 11 states, with five states already producing P-TECH graduates. Get ready for more — perhaps a lot more.
When COVID-19 began disrupting the global economy, it became apparent that tech workers would fare better than others, with less of an impact on their health and income. Landing those jobs meant they had access to the right education, skills training, work experiences and networks. Unfortunately, not everyone has ready access to those opportunities.
To address disparities in education and career opportunities, we helped establish P-TECH nearly ten years ago. It’s a bi-partisan initiative that offers teens a chance to earn both a public high school diploma and no-cost STEM community college degree for high demand professions within six years or sooner. All the while, students are exposed to the professional workplace through mentorships, paid internships, and job interviews provided by businesses of all sizes, in all sectors. It’s growing fast, and offers hope that more of society can succeed during both good and tough economic times.
The need for P-TECH is as urgent now as it was back then. In 2010, when P-TECH was established following the 2008 banking crisis and recession, the U.S. unemployment rate was about 10%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite this, many STEM jobs in all industries, and all company sizes, were going unfilled. The reason? There simply weren’t enough skilled workers to fill them.
Today, as we combat the pandemic and its economic fallout, unemployment is back to about 10%. And just like a decade ago, many STEM-related jobs still remain unfilled. The difference is that with P-TECH, we now have the potential to address the private sector’s need for talent, while addressing socioeconomic inequality. So, we need to continue working hard to connect education to the workplace.
It’s an attractive and sustainable skills pipeline for industry partners because it uses existing public-school budgets, not private financial donations. And it’s an inclusive model because student entrance exams are not required, which opens up opportunity for underserved students. Ninety percent of students in IBM-associated P-TECH schools are African American or Hispanic. Many are the first in the family to attend college.
It’s an appealing model because it works. The on-time college completion rate for P-TECH students tends to be four times faster than peers. It has become a pathway to participation in the knowledge economy and to lifelong learning. It’s a lifeline for many communities and an engine for economic growth.
We need more schools and more students and more partners if we want to create new opportunities for minorities and the companies that hire them. P-TECH partners such as Thomson Reuters, AT&T, CVS Health and Global Foundries are doing great work. They are part of more than 600 other industry partners around the world, and we’re welcoming new businesses all the time. Many small companies, which comprise the majority of P-TECH industry partners, are also playing a heroic and outsized role with P-TECH in their communities.
We are working hard to recruit at least 150 more industry partners in the U.S. in the next few years. We’re advocating for at least 6 more states with large minority populations to adopt P-TECH in the next few years. This could bring the number of U.S. states with P-TECH to 17, helping us reach 300 schools in the U.S. alone by 2025. That would potentially mean an increase of 150,000 P-TECH students to 250,000. (Here’s what IBM’s Ginni Rometty recently said on CNBC about projected P-TECH growth.)
IBM is proud to do its part to create a more diverse and equal society. We recently committed to 1,000 P-TECH internships in the U.S. through 2021 alone. We have liaisons stationed full time at the many P-TECH schools were are directly affiliated with.
There is an excellent chance that P-TECH would like to come to your state or your country, if we’re not already there. To find out more about the model, please visit ptech.org. If you are a company that is interested in joining the network or a public education leader that wants to bring P-TECH to your region, please let us know or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can make a difference and work to create opportunities for the next generation.
Innovation – joining invention and insight to produce important, new value – is at the heart of what we are as a company. And, today, IBM is leading an evolution in corporate citizenship by contributing innovative solutions and strategies that will help transform and empower our global communities.
Our diverse and sustained programs support education, workforce development, arts and culture, and communities in need through targeted grants of technology and project funds. To learn more about our work in the context of IBM's broader corporate responsibility efforts, please visit Innovations in Corporate Responsibility.
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