Three Maryland Chamber of Commerce members have been granted funding for an innovative education and workforce development program created with bipartisan support.
Through the P-TECH program, KCI Technologies, Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, and the Community College of Baltimore County have formed a partnership to help some young Marylanders finish high school and get an associate’s degree or certificate in a professional specialty, in six years, at no cost.
P-TECH is the acronym for Pathways in Technology Early College-High School. The plan, with funding from the state, matches companies, community colleges, and high schools in economically distressed areas to form a direct line from school to work. What distinguishes the program from a more typical employee training initiative is the educational attainment involved.
The concept caught the attention of Whiting-Turner CEO and President Tim Regan.
“The enhancement and development of career opportunities for local high school students who are interested in engineering and construction is critical both for our industry as well as our local communities,” Regan said.
Regan’s company often works with KCI Technologies, an engineering firm based in Sparks, Maryland. So it was a natural fit to pair up again, and work with CCBC on academic approaches that would help ensure young people’s success in the classroom and beyond.
“There has been a huge emphasis on the four-year college education, and rightly so given the needs of our society,” said KCI President Nate Beil, who is also chair of the MDCC Board of Directors. “However, there is a substantial number of well-paying jobs that do not require a four-year degree. These jobs are well within reach of students and need to also be emphasized.”
The partnership came together when Maryland Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Christine Ross connected KCI and Whiting-Turner with CCBC. The school was already heavily involved in early college education programs in its community, but this partnership gave CCBC a chance to work directly with businesses in a new way.
“We’re the academics, we know all about that part, but the Chamber is business industry, so we are very grateful that Christine brought two business industry partners to the table,” said CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis, Ph.D.
CCBC already has the academic foundations for pathways toward careers at KCI or Whiting-Turner. The P-TECH partnership will allow the companies to help guide a plan for that career development. Then, CCBC would work with Dundalk High School to ensure that the curriculum worked for the six-year program.
It’s work with which CCBC is familiar, since it has already partnered with area high schools on similar plans.
“Any time that we can influence an opportunity for the students we all care about, any edge that we can give to students to advance their degree completion and to do so at a low or minimal cost, that’s a gift we can both give together to our communities,” said Kurtinitis.
For KCI and Whiting-Turner, this is a chance to invest in both education and workforce needs.
“When the need arises to hire entry level workforce, rarely is there room built into the project schedule to then train them from scratch,” explained Beil. “This program could alleviate that gap by preparing the workforce in advance of hire.”
Both presidents say the individualized approach is a key to success for both the students and the companies, for years to come.
“We know from experience that it is the personal and continuous relationship that enables young people to recognize and then realize their full potential,” Regan said. “Young people are as talented and industrious as they have ever been, but they need to be attracted to the industry.”
With jobs that pay well and opportunities for no-cost achievement in disadvantaged areas, KCI, Whiting-Turner and CCBC could build much more than business.
“In an environment where everybody’s talking about the cost of college and the size of student debt, to me, this is a treasure,” said Kurtinitis. “This is a little jewel smack in the middle of how to resolve that conundrum.”
Education is a pillar of the Maryland Chamber’s initiatives. Other MDCC member P-TECH partners include Kaiser Permanente, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland–Baltimore at Dunbar High School in Baltimore; and MedStar Health and Marriott International at Frederick Douglass High School in Prince George’s County.