The birth of P-TECH

By Chloe Mazzone

Who better to learn about the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program than from the co-founder and implementing partner IBM? It laid the foundation for business involvement and has expanded its partnership to multiple schools across the United States. Grace Suh, vice president of education corporate citizenship at IBM, helped start the P-TECH movement in New York. Suh, along with Ari Fishkind of IBM Corporate Citizenship, shed light on the birth of P-TECH, where it is today and its future.

The Beginnings

P-TECH was born out of a strong relationship between Sam Palmisano, then chairman of IBM and Joel Klein, then chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. Klein’s concern about how to better prepare young people for the jobs of the future sparked discussion about ensuring future talent has the skills needed to run a business. With 500,000 computer science jobs open and only 50,000 qualified individuals to fill those spots, something needed to be done.

“It made sense for business and education professionals to think about the problems together, not separately,” said Suh.

A seamless pathway from high school and community college degree attainment to career entry or a four-year college degree, gave students the opportunity to chart their own destiny. With high schools, community colleges and industries working side-by-side to create that pathway, they had discovered a solution that made sense—and P-TECH was born.

The Model

The P-TECH model works within the parameters of the existing educational infrastructure. No new teachers are needed and no testing is involved, it is about bringing people together and forming partnerships.

“The program started with core tenants,” Suh explained. “One being the partner aspect, two being the integration of college and high school coursework leading to degree completion for all students, the third being workplace experiences that include the full-spectrum of mentoring all the way to first in line for jobs, fourth is the open enrollment piece and that it’s cost free.”

Implementing these principles results in better high school graduation results, eases the transition to college, and strengthens college attainment rates, all while improving the transition from school to the workplace.

Benefits to Business

Right now, there are 110 P-TECH programs across the United States and internationally with upwards of 450 different partner companies. For businesses looking to get involved in corporate social responsibility with a return on investment, the program is proving to be a solid solution.

“Becoming a P-TECH partner is a way to have a long-term sustained commitment that is deep and life changing for young people. At the same time, it contributes to your own talent pipeline that enables companies to think more strategically about inclusion and diversity,” Suh said.

From an IBM employee perspective, involvement with P-TECH generates a lot of pride. Instead of going into a classroom for a one-time speaking opportunity, P-TECH has given employers the opportunity to have a sustained relationship with a student from the start of high school until they get their degree.


P-TECH has grown rapidly both nationally and internationally over the last seven years, learn more on our Maryland Chamber Foundation page dedicated to the program.

P-TECH in Maryland

“Governor Hogan is really a champion of the model. He spoke about it so eloquently at the NGA meeting in February and wants to see this pathway provided for more young people,” Suh said.

Maryland adopted the P-TECH model in the fall of 2016, starting with two schools and has since expanded to seven total. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce currently has eleven members who are P-TECH partners. Read more about Maryland Chamber member involvement in P-TECH.






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