Guest Contributors

Building on What Works

Many companies value the importance of skills development, education and training.
Yet, few companies have made the type of commitment that IBM has.

Instead of nibbling around the edge, IBM is working to restructure the education system to better align education, work-based learning experiences and career pathways. Through the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH)  model – a grades nine through 14 school where students earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree – IBM is preparing students to succeed in the global economy.

By joining with Skills for America’s Future – a public-private initiative connecting businesses with community colleges to train students with the skills they need to get and keep good jobs – IBM can provide the blueprint for a replicable and impactful partnership between employers and schools.

At Skills forAmerica’s Future, we know that aligning education with employer-driven training is a surefire way to build a solid workforce pipeline. Public-private partnerships between employers and educational institutions represent a strategy to accomplish this goal. Community colleges are a key partner, since these institutions currently educate 44 percent ofAmerica’s undergraduates.

But there is also the need to bridge the gap between high school, community college and employment. This gap has been a topic of concern in the education world for some time, and continues to be an important focus for improving workforce development.

It’s no wonder that IBM’s P-TECH model has created such buzz around the country.
P-TECH confers not only a high school diploma, but a two-year associate’s degree as well. Upon graduation, students will have the academic skills and workplace experience either to enter the workforce directly or pursue a four-year degree. Most notably, students graduate with specific skills that employers value, and for which they hire. For that reason alone, the grades nine through 14 model that IBM has developed is clearly an idea worth spreading.

After witnessing the success of a P-TECH school in New York, the City of Chicago has announced plans to integrate the grades nine through 14 model into select parts of its education system. With the leadership of IBM and other key business partners, students will be trained for jobs in Chicago’s growth industries – all through one program that connects high school, community college, and employment.

The expansion of IBM’s P-TECH model is not only evidence that this works, but that it’s easy to reproduce in the hands of other willing participants. That’s why this model has the potential to be replicated around the country.

To provide information about the successful elements of the model, IBM has developed a playbook that can pave the way for other companies to coalesce around this model and partner with high schools and community colleges. This playbook can help guide other companies develop strategies to bridge the gap between education and job opportunities, and invest in their communities to create similar substantial connections.

As a national network of employers and community colleges dedicated to reforming skills training and workforce development, Skills forAmerica’s Future is an ideal partner to help IBM share this information with the stakeholders who need it most.

In this economy, it is clear that we need smart, forward-thinking solutions to meet our nation’s skills challenges. IBM’s P-TECH model provides one such a solution. That’s why at Skills for America’s Future we look forward to highlighting what works and sharing the best practices with other committed employers across the country.

Karen Elzey is Director of Skills for America’s Future, a policy initiative at the Aspen Institute.

Related Resources:

Grades 9 Through 14 School Model Strengthens Education-to-Work System

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Building a Smarter Chicago

Student Perspective: How P-TECH Inspired New Hope After Just One Semester

STEM Pathways to College and Careers Schools: A Development Guide

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