By Chloe Mazzone
You’ve probably been hearing these five letters a lot lately—P-TECH. Governor Larry Hogan even claimed at a recent P-TECH roundtable, “It is one of the most creative and innovative approaches I have ever seen.”
But what is P-TECH? Where did it start? And why is it important?
Maryland adopted the state’s first P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School, model in the fall of 2016. Originally starting with two schools, the programs have since quadrupled, with eight schools now currently in the state.
The model marries school districts, higher education institutions, and committed business partners, to offer a high school diploma and an industry focused two-year associates degree—at no cost. For grades nine-14, the program incorporates academic, technical and workplace skills to satisfy a growing demand for skilled workers.
The idea is to provide a direct path from high school to college to career, ensuring a steady pipeline of educated professionals. It also focuses on inclusion and opening doors to opportunities for students of every background.
During the 2015 General Assembly, there was a unanimous, bi-partisan approval to bring the P-TECH model to Maryland. With a $600,000 commitment from the governor’s budget, P-TECH began.
At the governor’s recent roundtable, P-TECH student Justice Heughan, a junior in the P-TECH Carver program said, “P-TECH has given me exposure to different career pathways. My father always told me to take advantage of every opportunity, and P-TECH has given me so many.
“It is nice to have someone who is invested in my future.”
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce has 11 members currently involved as P-TECH partners. We asked those members: with a number of education and workforce development initiatives in Maryland, why P-TECH? What distinguishes this model from the others?
“This program is unique because of the involvement from our industry partners. They have been instrumental in structuring the mentor program, arranging site visits, and providing input on the curriculum,” Community College of Baltimore County‘s Director of Early College Access Programs Brian Hammond said. “The curriculum piece is so valuable because they have a say in the skills that the students will possess when they start on the job site.”
There’s a reason that over 400 businesses are involved in this program—of those reasons are the skills gaps that exist in the state.
“Alban decided to participate in P-TECH because of the trade skills shortage. We also believe that if businesses get involved with students entering high school, they can become more aware of business acumen and business standards. Students learn the soft-skills required in a business environment,” noted Leah Summers, talent acquisition specialist at Alban CAT.
P-TECH has proven to be beneficial for both students and businesses. According to James Deriu from KCI Technologies Inc., there are several advantages from a business perspective. “Oftentimes, entry level candidates will require a substantial investment to learn the basics of what we do. This could be a financial investment in formal, technical training but also informal mentoring and guidance in their first years. This program kick starts their technical development by giving [students] real-life experiences before they even enter the workforce.”
For KCI Technologies, participating in P-TECH not only helps to better prepare candidates for open positions, but it also directly aligns with its vision to support the communities where they live and work.
“Bringing about real and lasting improvements in our communities, through increased economic opportunities and workforce development, will take a lot of hard work,” Deriu said. “We are excited to get to know our students and start them on the path to a prosperous career.”
While business benefits are nice—it really boils down to the benefits for the students.
“Technology is a high-demand field with countless growth opportunities; those with technical skills will have the upper-hand when searching for their dream career,” Marissa Ferraraccio, director of marketing at Dataprise, Inc., said. “For us, it is exciting to see students provided with an opportunity they may not be able to afford on their own. Their enthusiasm about technology will propel them into their future and open countless doors.”
“We are so proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization and look forward to watching the growth of the students.”
Governor Hogan pushed for its inception in Maryland, saying, “The P-TECH model is not only expanding education opportunities, but it is strengthening the economy as well.”
The interest in expanding P-TECH in the state is high and the Maryland Chamber is working to help garner participation for the model to continue to grow. Learn more through the Maryland Chamber Foundation.