Litow: Revised Perkins Law is key to getting great tech programs like P-TECH for needy kids


Updated April 10

The inability of many Americans to lift themselves out of poverty and earn a middle-class wage, and the gap between the 21Century labor market, and the skills of job seekers, are two of the most critical challenges facing our country. These will not be overcome by fingering or overheated rhetoric. To understand and address the scale, scope and specifics of income inequality and the skills crisis, we need to look at the facts.

In 1970, while it was still possible to earn a middle-class income with just a high school diploma, only 6% of low-income 24-year-olds had a university degree. That number has improved since then, but only by 3 percentage points. This means that less than one in 10 low-income American youth has a college degree. Why is it a problem? Because the needs of the labor market have outstripped the qualifications of most young people in a colossal way.

Since 2008, even after a slow start because of the recession, American employers have created more than 10 million new jobs. Yet tens of thousands of them remain vacant, while unemployment among low-income Americans has skyrocketed. How can this happen? Because 99 percent of these new jobs require a post-secondary diploma or certification, and although high school graduation and college attendance among low-income students has improved over the past 25 years, college completion did not improve. Even with some extra time, there remains a huge gap between the number of low-income students entering college and those who graduate.

The disheartening fact is that only about one in ten students from low-income families graduate from a two-year public college, even after three years. These young people then try to integrate the workforce of the information economy without the necessary qualifications. They are clearly very far from ready for college and career.

This trend could change with an innovative public education program that seamlessly integrates high school, college and workplace learning to give young people from all walks of life the training, guidance and opportunities they need. to succeed. But we have to scale it to see the big advantage.

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Designed by IBM in close partnership with education and government leaders in New York City, the The P-TECH Grades 9-14 school model was launched in 2011 and now includes 60 schools in six states and Australia. As the first school in this growing network approaches the “first graduation” stage with a class of nearly 100, 35 percent of its students will have graduated from both high school and high school. their associate’s degree a year or two earlier than expected (nationally, the average graduation rate for students who enroll in two-year public colleges is about 20 percent). The second and third cohorts are on the way to increasing this percentage. Meanwhile, 20% of P-TECH students in the initial class have achieved over 36 college credits and are on track to graduate by the end of the summer.

All of this means that 55% of the first class will likely graduate this year with both a high school diploma and a two-year associate’s degree, and by next year P-TECH plans a nearly 65% ​​completion rate for this initial cohort. .

P-TECH flagship school students are 100% children of color, with most free meals eligible. But by taking college courses as early as Grade 10 and progressing at their own pace through a mix of rigorous academics and essential professional skills – aided by trained IBM mentors and industry internships – students like Bryann Sandy and Oscar Tedilla were able to complete their “six-year programs” in just three and a half years and are winning full scholarships at elite universities: Bryann at Georgetown, Oscar at Cornell. Graduates David Calliste and Gabriel Rosa went through P- TECH in four years and now work for IBM. And P-TECH graduates Leslieann John and Janiel Richards, who continue their four-year university education while working at IBM, shared their stories during a meeting on the education at the White House last month with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The White House event was critical in raising awareness of the need for bipartisan support for the passage of a revised Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which is critical to the growth of schools like P-TECH and a key to ensuring that such programs are the new standard for American public education, and not the exception for some.

At present, the Perkins Act distributes over a billion dollars a year on a per capita basis. New, more relevant performance incentives linked to program success are needed to link technical education specifically to well-paying new pass careers. With federal financial incentives for basic programming elements similar to those evident in P-TECH schools, we could see dramatic growth in the number of these schools – with dramatic increases in our youth’s chances of success in school. ‘university and in their careers, and a reduction in funds often wasted on remediation. This would help tackle income inequality and close the skills gap while boosting the US economy.

America’s economic growth and stability depends on our ability to address the root causes of our current skills crisis. With support and opportunity, young Americans can accomplish anything. They crave success and are willing to work hard to achieve it. The only question left for us is whether we will work together to give them that chance.

Stanley S. Litow leads corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM. Prior to joining IBM, Mr. Litow was Vice Chancellor of Schools in New York City.


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