This fall, dozens of ninth-graders at three Capitol region high schools are slated to start a six-year job training program that will put them in line for potential jobs at IBM and Dow Chemical.
IBM pioneered the concept in 2011 at a high school in Brooklyn. Known as P-TECH — Pathways in Technology Early College High School — the technology giant has since launched programs at 90 high schools across seven states, as well as Australia and Morocco, and the company is predicting that number to top 120 by next school year.
Tara High in Baton Rouge has been selected to team up with IBM to launch the company’s first P-TECH program in Louisiana. Coursework will focus on engineering and computer science. Meanwhile, Dow is adapting and expanding its existing “process technology” pathways at Brusly and Port Allen high schools to mirror the format of IBM’s program.
Students enrolled will not only pursue their high school diplomas but associate’s degrees in applied science with local community colleges via a mix of dual enrollment and in-person courses, and all free of charge.
IBM and DOW will not only offer mentoring and internships to participating students, but they are committing to giving job interviews to all students who complete the program.
Donald Songy, a senior policy advisor to Gov. John Bel Edwards and a former Ascension Parish school superintendent, said IBM approached the governor almost a year ago with the idea of setting up a P-TECH program in Louisiana. Songy said he expects the program will expand to more schools over time.
“When it shows itself to be successful, we’re going to bring it to other parts of the state and possibly into other fields,” Songy said.
The West Baton Rouge Parish school system and Dow are working with River Parishes Community College to expand their process technology programs at Brusly and Port Allen high schools.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a cooperative agreement with IBM, as well as Baton Rouge Community College, to get the program rolling this fall; the board is planning a final vote on April 19.
“I think this is really exciting and I’m excited for Tara High,” board member Dawn Collins said Thursday.