Schools Gear Up For Early College And Technology Program

Apr 2, 2014

Bombardier manufacturing in Plattsburgh
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley

Last August, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an educational initiative to fast track high school students into career pathways. Participating schools will launch the program this fall.

The New York State Pathways in Technology Early College High School, of P-TECH, program is a public-private partnership program the governor introduced in a partnership with IBM to create an educational pathway for high school students in technology, manufacturing and health care studies. Students earn an associate’s degree at no cost.
The statewide program initiates this fall, enrolling 6,000 students. In the North Country, Clarkson University and Clinton Community College are the higher education coordinators. Peru Central School District is leading the K through 12 regional consortium with the Beekmantown and Saranac Central School Districts.

North Country Workforce Investment Board Director of Programming Michele Armani was one of the participants of a forum at Mountain Lake PBS taped on Tuesday.  “There were a number of criteria that were set out by IBM and state ed. Primarily we’re looking for the same qualities as an employer would look for. We’re looking for aptitude. We  did look at past state test scores in science and math. We looked current report cards. Students did a written application. Then students had to sit down and interview. We did say to students in the interview we’re not necessarily looking for the smartest students. We’re looking for those students who are willing to improve and are really hard workers.”

Clinton Community College will grant associate’s degrees in a career or technical field.  President John Jablonski notes that the program is working with students beginning in the 8th grade.   “I think there are two reasons that it is important to start working with these students early. One is often we find that students in these high school years are unaware and therefore unprepared. The second reason is it’s apparent all across the country, and here in the North Country we’re no exception, that too many students are attempting at some point in life to enter college but aren’t academically prepared in the areas that college requires of them. So part of what P-TECH will do is to make sure that those students are getting the college preparation as part of the P-TECH program.”

Jablonski calls P-TECH a collective effort that will benefit the local economy.
Manufacturing businesses in the North Country participating in P-TECH include Fujitsu, Bombardier, Nova Bus, Swarovski and Camoplact. The Development Corporation CEO Paul Grasso says businesses are evaluating schools and are eager to interact.  “One of the big issues we have the mere number of students we have coming through the pipeline. But also what their skill sets are. Sophisticated employers in Canada looking to locate in the U.S. ask the questions: How many seventh graders do you have? What are they taking? How many are graduating? What are they learning? And so this will help with that a great deal.”

Grasso believes there will be unanticipated benefits for the students from exposure to the manufacturers.  “What I hope happens is these young people going through P-TECH, and they’re out at Spencer ARL or NOVA Bus or Bombardier, they find there are a lot more occupations in those companies than just the ones they’re training for and there may be something that’s more interesting to them. Education should prepare students to pursue a variety of careers once they graduate. If you have the foundational expertise and knowledge, you can move in a lot of directions. It’s when you don’t have that, that you’re choices become limited. We’re trying to expose them to as  many choices as they can have.”

In the Capital Region, P-TECH focuses on manufacturing, clean technologies and advanced manufacturing.
The P-TECH partnerships were selected in a competitive process through each of the Regional Economic Development Councils.