Today marks a significant milestone on the journey of 16 extraordinary young people, as they complete both their high school diplomas and associate degrees in STEM fields. This milestone is significant because all 16 are students of color from low-income families, and because nearly 100 percent are headed to four-year colleges. This outstanding achievement also is significant for Brooklyn P-TECH, from which 54 young people have already graduated ahead of schedule. Many have already accepted “new collar” employment with IBM, others are continuing their educations, and several are doing both.
We launched the world’s first “six-year” P-TECH program in 2011, with the inaugural class originally scheduled to graduate in June of this year. But as of December 2016, an astonishing 35 percent of that first class has finished the program one to two years early. Given that only 20 percent of U.S. community college students complete their “two-year” programs in three years (following four years of traditional high school), P-TECH’s numbers are extraordinary. Brooklyn P-TECH and the P-TECH model have accomplished amazing things in the five short years since the program began:
- The P-TECH network has grown to 60 schools across the U.S. and Australia, with 20 additional schools opening this year.
- More than 250 businesses from all industry sectors have joined IBM in supporting P-TECH’s innovative approach to preparing graduates for college study, new collar jobs or both.
- Urban, suburban and rural P-TECH schools are engaging, motivating and enabling a generation of young adults to realize its potential for success – with clear results.
And the best is yet to come.
As the P-TECH model continues to grow, it signals a national movement in education innovation and reform. P-TECH is helping to close the “skills gap” between 21st century labor market demands and a generation’s ability to meet those needs. In the process, P-TECH is helping a bold new wave of young people – many from low-income families and historically disadvantaged groups – to create promising futures for themselves and their communities, and help stimulate the American economy.
The P-TECH model has been so successful that it has inspired unprecedented bipartisan Congressional support for revision and renewal of the federal legislation that funds Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Renewal of the Perkins Act has enjoyed overwhelming support from the U.S. House of Representatives, and we look forward to U.S. Senate authorization to preserve Perkins Act funding.
What will America get for this money? We’ll get state-determined 21st century CTE programs that meet today’s (and tomorrow’s) demands for rigor, relevance and accountability. We’ll stop training our young people for jobs that either don’t exist or pay low wages. And we’ll pioneer the collaborations among educators, business and government that are essential to maintaining a strong economy with a strong middle class. With new collar job growth outpacing that of low-paying service-industry jobs – and 99 percent of new, post-recession jobs going to workers with at least some college education – programs like P-TECH will open the door to opportunity for anyone from any background who has the drive to succeed.
Which brings us back to the young people we can all be so proud of today. I know each of their stories, how hard they’ve worked to reach this milestone, and the tremendous potential that they personify. I hope you will join me in congratulating them, and others like them, who dream of better futures and endeavor to transform those dreams into reality. I also hope you will join me by supporting – and by urging your communities and legislators to support – programs like P-TECH that have proven themselves to be successful in preparing young adults for productive and meaningful lives.
Rashid Ferrod Davis is the Founding Principal of Brooklyn P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School).
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