Collaborating to ensure kids are employable

Posted by Janice Scheckter on 14 July 2017 12:40 PM CAT

The six-year high school, this may just be the kind of collaboration that education needs. You know the saying, ‘if it ain't broke don’t fix it’? Education appears to be broken across many nations from the first world to emerging markets. So why are we not collaborating more, disrupting more and build stuff that works?

In 2011, in a public-private partnership between IBM, the New York City Department of Education and City University of New York, a new six-year Brooklyn high school program was launched. It knitted together educators and job creators and gave kids not only a high school degree but a two-year associates degree and a job guarantee at one of the country’s top blue chip firms, IBM.


According to TIME magazine, the last great national leap forward in secondary education was during the post-World War II period, when state governments decided that high school education, previously optional, should be mandatory.


The first school to run the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology) program, was a run-down school in a low-income area. Giving low-income students the chance to earn an Associate’s degree, essentially acquiring two years of free college tuition, is at the core of the model’s design.

“What’s very clear to me is that high school education as it is envisioned today isn’t sufficient for the modern workplace, or the modern economy,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was quoted as saying. Emanuel decided to launch six P-tech schools of his own after reading about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s success working with IBM in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighbourhood. 

If we turn our attention to South Africa and the multiple job creation programs, we experience the exact same problem where high school is no longer sufficient qualification for the modern workplace.  Many good programs, focused on job creation, have gained corporate commitment but are unable to place the applying youth due to lack of qualifications. Further amplifying the problem is the dropout rate prior to completing high school.


We need to rethink education systems and do that in collaborative partnerships with those creating the jobs and requiring the skills.


P-TECH addresses STEM feeding into the massively growing global need for STEM (science, technology engineering and math) skills globally. In 2015 a coalition of Fortune 500 companies focused on increasing STEM education, and the stagnant nature of STEM diversity. They recognised that although the overall face of the workforce throughout the country (USA) was changing, particularly with a higher representation of younger and minority individuals, the demographics of STEM fields have remained largely unchanged, which consists of a large majority of white and Asian males. 


But P-TECH despite some critics is graduating students. 100 students from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Chicago have graduated from the P-TECH program this summer (in the USA) with both their high school diplomas and their associate degrees in STEM. In fact, many of the scholars who participated in P-TECH, a grade 9 to grade 14 model, completed their six-year program early, some in under just four years. Many are the first in their families to earn a college degree. P-Tech has grown from one school in 2011 to 80 schools in 2017.


A collaboration in education that brought new thinking.


Janice Scheckter is a collaboration activist and a director of A Better Africa, a Pan-African Education Hub with really smart collaborative functionality.


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