There’s a new academic partnership in the Hudson Valley to prepare at-risk high school students for jobs in technology. It launches out of Poughkeepsie in the fall of 2015.
The public-private partnership brings together Dutchess Community College, the Poughkeepsie City School District, and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation. It is funded through the New York State Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, grant. Dr. Pamela Edington is president of Dutchess Community College.
“I’m looking for this to really create a strong partnership between the community college and the City of Poughkeepsie schools and others within the community,” says Edington.
She says 50 ninth-grade students will be admitted annually for six years, and the program culminates in both a high school diploma and a college associate’s degree in the field of engineering, at no cost to students. Edington says incorporating industry is one key element of the program in preparing the at-risk students for the workforce, and this P-TECH partnership has another.
“We invited SUNY New Paltz into the partnership from the beginning so that students can, with the P-TECH program will complete an associate’s degree, but they’ll be prepared to transfer to a four-year engineering program as well,” Edington says. “So we wanted to have the faculty of the high school, the community college, and the university working from the beginning on this curriculum.”
Another aspect she considers perhaps unique among P-TECH partnerships is the incorporation of English Language Arts and Arts into the traditional STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics — curriculum. Edington says the goal with these additions is to provide a well-rounded education and help students acquire necessary communications skills. Central Hudson Spokesman John Maserjian says, sure, math skills are important.
“But also some of the people skills that are needed to be in engineering, even presentation skills because part of the job is also interfacing with the public, with the communities, with the municipalities in presenting the work that needs to be done,” says Maserjian. “That’s a key skill that’s needed in an engineering position.”
An important aspect of the P-TECH program is for students to have workplace mentors, access to internships, and be first in line for jobs. This gives students a taste of a career in engineering; plus, says Maserjian:
“And for us it’s a way to grow some homegrown engineers here in the Hudson Valley,” says Maserjian. “It’s important to us that we help develop the labor pool right here at home because we’re always looking for qualified employees, and this is a great opportunity for these students.”
Prior to taking the helm at Dutchess Community College over the summer, Edington had served as provost and dean of academic affairs at Norwalk Community College, where she was involved in developing a P-TECH program that launched this fall, the first in Connecticut. She has a bigger picture take on the P-TECH model.
“I think long-term success is changing the model of education,” says Edington. “For the most part, our traditional system has been to attend high school, you go K-12 and then you go on to college,” says Edington. “The P-TECH models are to break that continuum and invite students to take college-level courses at the point at which they’re ready to take them.”
Meanwhile, Maserjian says job skills training could include field work, internships, or shadowing an engineer. He explains what the shadowing might entail.
“For example, looking at facilities that are actually out in the field and then coming back to the office, looking at the drawings and understanding what has to be done or what sort of updates or maintenance program has to be conducted on those facilities ,” Maserjian says. “We’ll also be looking to pair some of these interns with other field forces that actually work on the lines or on our gas systems so they can see exactly how the engineering translates into real-life work.”
This P-TECH partnership in Poughkeepsie is one of 10 awarded in New York. P-TECH first opened in September 2011 in Brooklyn, with IBM and City University of New York.