With schools across 10 states, the P-TECH program prepares its students for good jobs that corporations pay well for.
The P-TECH idea was invented in 2010, when then-IBM CEO Sam Palmisano was chatting up his friend Joel Klein, then New York City's schools chancellor. During a rain delay at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Palmisano told Klein that the tech industry was having trouble finding young people with the skills it needed. Klein proposed opening a six-year school with the City University of New York and curriculum input from IBM. Students could work IBM internships and, if they passed a company certification test, would be first in line for job interviews at IBM. Palmisano agreed. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the plan in September 2010 and gave the partners a year to open the school.
When Klein and Palmisano shook on the deal, vocational education was just beginning to emerge from the academic backwater where it had languished for decades. Conceived a century ago so high school students could learn a trade if they weren't going to college, vocational education had developed a reputation as a dumping ground for students who weren't doing well in regular academics. Harvard's influential Pathways to Prosperity report, released in 2011, warned that nearly two-thirds of new jobs of the 2010s would require more than a high school education -- yet only 40 percent of Americans had obtained a bachelor's degree or associate's degree by their mid-20s.
By contrast, the report noted, 40 to 70 percent of high school kids in many European countries spent three years in career programs that combined classroom and workplace experience, where they earned diplomas or certificates strongly valued in the labor market...