Why P-TECH matters – Stories from our schools

By | 3 minute read | November 16, 2020

From left to right, Marek, student in P-TECH Poland, Ciara, P-TECH teacher in Ireland and Hanane, P-TECH student in France

“I didn’t even think I would work in IT, but P-TECH is taking me on such an amazing journey that now I really want to” Marek, 17, P-TECH student, Poland.

Today we are proudly announcing that the IBM-pioneered secondary school education model, P-TECH, is now in 28 countries from regions all around the world. In my region, EMEA, P-TECH, is going from strength-to-strength with 33 schools embracing the program in the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK.

P-TECH schools combine STEM-intensive classroom studies with experiential career training — through mentoring, site visits and paid internships — provided by local businesses. They enable teens to earn both a no-cost secondary school and college diploma within 6 years or less. Graduates can then more easily secure well paying positions in multiple industries.

As P-TECH grows, it is the personal stories that make me most proud.  For example, the enthusiasm of Marek, a 17-year-old basketballer and gamer from Katowice, Poland, for P-TECH’s practical experience. This window into the world of work, guided by an IBM mentor, has changed how Marek thinks about his future. Marek admires his IBM mentor for also showing students the importance of non-technical skills such as communication. Despite a first P-TECH year in lockdown, Marek and his classmates from Katowice’s General and Technical school have worked on a wonderful and real world AI solution – helping create a voice-activated virtual agent for the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra that can answer questions from the public about every aspect of the orchestra.

“Being guided by three big companies gives us big opportunities” says Hanane, aged 16, who attends Lycée des Métiers La Tournelle, a technical school in the Parisian suburbs.  P-TECH is helping Hanane’s dream of being a developer to become reality. Now in her second year of P-TECH, Hanane has already built a translation chatbot, learned how to set up IT in the classroom and discovered the world of IoT. She enjoys the responsibility: “We are learning how to think through projects by ourselves and that’s really useful”.

Ciara Dowling teaches at St Joseph’s CBS (“Joey’s”) in Fairview, Dublin, considered a disadvantaged school in Ireland’s education system.  “P-TECH is bridging the gap between our students and others when it comes to third-level education and job opportunities” Ciara says. The enthusiasm amongst the students is such that outside the “regular” P-TECH classes, many have started using the Open P-TECH program where they study – by themselves – to earn badges in important professional skills such as Mindfulness and Interpersonal Skills.

The P-TECH experience is enriched by the ever-increasing number of industry partners. In EMEA we work with 35 companies including Fujitsu, Samsung, BNP Paribas, Orange and Bosch. Like IBM, industry partners lead P-TECH classes, act as mentors, involve students in company projects and provide paid internships.  For the many P-TECH students who, because of their backgrounds, would previously have limited contact opportunities with such companies, P-TECH opens up a whole new range of possibilities for their future – and not just in tech jobs. Ciara Dowling says “Students are experiencing big companies for the first time and realizing that there are jobs in areas like HR and social media management.”

It is important not to underestimate the systemic shift that must happen for P-TECH to be adopted in curricula.  It requires long-term vision, a steadfast commitment to change, and the hard work to implement that change from every layer of the education system. That education authorities, schools and teachers are prepared to open up their education programs to industry is a sign of the trust built around P-TECH.

It’s this level of joint commitment that’s required for our young people to be able to seize the opportunities of digital transformation. IBM fully supports government policies such as the European Commission’s recent Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 to promote high quality and inclusive education and training. We contribute to the European Commission’s goals not only through P-TECH, but also through Open P-TECH, SkillsBuild and SkillsBuild Reignite.

We will continue to build P-TECH. To enthuse young people about their digital future. To broaden their horizons. To increase their ambitions. And to give them opportunities that they otherwise may not get.