Moving From Poverty to Meaningful Employment

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-01-30 Print this article Print

In a blog post about P-TECH, Rashid Davis, the school's principal, said:

"Unemployment among the poor and undereducated is far higher than the national average, and persists even during 'good times.' There are at least two reasons for this:

  • The majority of good American jobs require some form of post-secondary education or training, and
  • As a cultural institution, the corporate workplace - where most of the good jobs are - operates on middle-class values and behaviors.
As a result, young people from difficult circumstances must overcome the dual challenges of getting an education and navigating unfamiliar waters to move from poverty to meaningful, long-term employment. My job is to make that happen."

Rodney Adkins, senior vice president of IBM Systems and Technology Group, is Davis' mentor.

"One of the challenges to our economic recovery is a mismatch between job openings and employees' skills," Adkins told eWEEK. "A new model for public education like P-TECH, which includes partnerships with the private sector, can ensure that students graduate with the skills that potential employers need. Companies like IBM can help students connect what they are learning in school with paths to successful careers."

Adkins added that Davis is uniquely cut out for the task of running the school. "P-TECH's principal, Rashid Davis, is on the cutting edge of this trend, helping to build a new education model in Brooklyn, N.Y. Rashid understands the importance of putting principles into practice and how collaboration among educators, students and potential employers can deliver a new focus on relevant job skills. Training more students for careers in technology will also benefit our overall economy. Because while only 5 percent of U.S. workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, they're responsible for more than 50 percent of our sustained economic expansion."

IBM says the hallmark of P-TECH is public/private collaborations. IBM will work with government, nonprofit and business partners on various aspects of the school development and programming. As one example, IBM is pulling together an industry coalition, which will serve a pivotal role in ensuring the expansion of this project beyond a single grades 9-14 school. This coalition will be responsible for providing mentors and internship programs; developing the core set of minimum requirements for entry-level IT jobs that will serve as benchmarks and targets; identifying best practices from successful public/private partnership schools; and devising a plan for scaling up the project to other schools in New York City and across the nation.

On Oct. 4, 2011, IBM announced that starting Oct. 15, the company would dispatch a team of technology consultants to Chicago for a three-month period funded by an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The team will work with educators and city leaders to evaluate ways Chicago can better align its educational system with the needs of knowledge workers in the private sector, as well as enhance and integrate the high school and community college experiences. The program would be designed for implementation in five Chicago high schools by 2012.  

"Mayor Emanuel is demonstrating real innovative leadership here, by working closely with business and education leaders to catapult Chicago's educational system to the forefront, along with some of the world's most progressive cities," IBM's Litow said in a statement. "IBM is proud to bring the most forward thinking educational and business models to Chicago and expand career opportunities for the city's young adults."

The Smarter Cities Challenge grant will enable IBM to collaborate closely with the Chicago Mayor's office, Chicago Public School leaders, Chicago City Colleges, city departments, civic groups and the private sector. Through these consultations and analysis, the team will work with Chicago educators and city leaders to create a strategic, step-by-step operational plan to create an educational system that more effectively ties to Chicago's economic future. Among those plans will be the incorporation of the concept of the grade 9 through 14 school. IBM's work in Chicago will be informed by the company's experience with P-TECH.

As a guest columnist in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December, Litow pushed the P-TECH model as a potential example for that city to follow. Litow said:

"We must increase community college completion rates by improving the preparation for college-level work. One way to do that is through adoption of a new grades 9 through 14 model school pioneered by IBM. The first of these schools, the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, opened in New York City this fall. P-TECH will award both a high school diploma and an associate's degree in technology to graduates who will then be first in line for jobs at IBM. Chicago will open five similar schools next fall, each focused on specific growth industries. The P-TECH model can work in any city under current budgets."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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