Back to School: P-TECH Voices from Around the World on Why It Matters

Joel Mangan kicks off design thinking session at Planet P-TECH alongside Jennifer Lucia, Sarah Walsh and Bob Lukasik from IBM.

It’s back to school season but parents, students, and teachers are not the only ones thinking about education – it’s on the mind of industry leaders, too.

For nearly the last decade, a labor market characterized by a growing mismatch between skills and jobs has heightened concerns about the continuous widening of the skills gap. The “skills gap” is a leading concern across private and government sectors to ensure their workforces have the technical and non-technical skills required for jobs in a new type of economy.

New research shows that skills such as adaptability, as well as practical, hands-on working experience through internships and apprenticeships will help overcome the skills gap.  A new study released from IBM’s Institute for Business Value last week found:

  • In the next three years, as many as 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled as a result of AI and intelligent automation.
  • The top skills to be employable are rapidly evolving. In 2016, “technical core capabilities for STEM” and “basic computer and software/application skills” topped the list. In 2018, the #1 skill was, “willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change,” and “time management and ability to prioritize” followed.
  • Nearly all (96 percent) of the surveyed executives indicated apprenticeship and internship programs were impactful in helping to close skills gaps.

The IBV research also found that learning journeys should be delivered through experiential learning such as, peer-to-peer learning and hands-on experience inside and outside the classroom, as well as access to online resources.

IBM is taking a leadership role in partnering with governments, educational institutions and businesses around the world to equip workforces for emerging “New Collar jobs” – jobs that require technical skills, but not always a traditional university degree.

For example, SkillsBuild, is a new digital platform that provides job seekers – including those returning to work after leave, the long-term unemployed, migrants, veterans and those changing professions – with the digital content, personalized coaching and experiential learning to help them re-enter the workforce successfully.

P-TECH, designed and launched in 2011, offers access to high quality education for underserved youth. The model spans grades 9-14 and integrates high school and college coursework, enabling students to earn an Associates degree in a range of STEM fields, including IT, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and finance. It also offers mentoring, site visits and paid internships —all designed to support students’ academic and professional growth.

20 countries have announced the intent to open P-TECHs, or have already opened P-TECHs, including the US, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Thailand and more. More than 650 businesses such as VW and American Airlines are partnering with schools to ensure students graduate with the skills and credentials required for entry-level careers or ongoing college.

To celebrate P-TECH’s global expansion, IBM hosted the first ever Planet P-TECH with nearly 300 other industry leaders, administrators and students from P-TECH’s network of nearly 200 schools around the world.

Throughout my conversations that week, one thing was clear:  education reform is not a one size fits all approach. Our collective work to make education and careers more inclusive and equitable is a shared effort. Check out our video to hear students, industry leaders, teachers, and mentors from around the world describe the P-TECH experience in their own words.