A Successful & Innovative Model for Workplace Education: Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH)

Mar 22, 2021

The IBM Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) is designed to offer a seamless pathway from high school to college completion and career readiness within six years. The goal of the P-Tech program is to prepare young people for academic achievement and economic opportunity, regardless of their backgrounds. As shared by Ray Johnson, IBM’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager over 16 states and Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) board Workforce Education Council member, “Through the P-Tech programs, partners develop relationships with schools, educators, and kids to have a tremendous impact shaping the lives of our future generations, particularly those who are first in their families to attend college and who come from underserved populations.”

IBM and its many other industry partners created and provides ongoing curricula support, corporate community engagement, mentoring and thought leadership for its P-TECH model which seeks to address the skills gap and reinvigorate local economies. Importantly, at P-TECH schools, students only take college coursework that leads to degrees and no remedial coursework and are given support to attain a degree. IBM P-TECH schools are partnerships among private industry, school districts and higher education institutions, with support from government. The model has no admission requirements and serves students from underserved backgrounds – importantly, Program completers leave with a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree, and in-demand technology skills.

In 2017, the first cohort of approximately 100 students from IBM’s P-TECH Brooklyn finished the full six years of the model, with a graduation rate that was four times the on-time national community college rate.  Since then, the Program has grown through adoption by over 165 schools in the U.S., and more than 240 schools worldwide. Our State of Colorado is also beginning to see similar success. “Due to our local P-TECH Program and the skills it equips kids with, out of it first completed cohort, IBM has already hired 8 Program completers for IT jobs, while others have begun attending 4-year institutions through scholarships, and our first Daniels Fund scholarship recipient,“ stated Ray.

The IBM P-TECH model’s success requires the contributions and collaboration of industry, school districts, higher education institutions and state government:

  • Employers: Employers are considered equal partners in preparing students for college and careers. Employers provide educators with a skills map that details the specific technical and professional skills required for entry-level jobs. This map is then used to align high school and coursework to degree attainment and needed skills.
  • High schools: P-TECHs are public schools but are not standard public schools. P-TECH schools are prepared, if needed, to modify traditional patterns of student enrollment, staffing, curriculum and scheduling. They are designed to work in an integrated way with college and industry partners to help students attain an industry recognized credential.
  • Colleges: Colleges work closely with high schools and employers to align and strengthen the relationship between school and work. College deans and faculty identify associate degree pathways, participate in curriculum planning and development, and support students through close collaboration and communication with high school faculty.
  • Governments: In many countries, education is led by states. State leaders establish an environment that nurtures and supports P-TECH as needed for long-term sustainability and replicability.

In Colorado, we initially started with 2 schools in 2016, and to-date have grown to 16 IBM P-TECH schools. To learn more about what organizations are doing with IBM P-TECH programs CLICK HERE.

For Colorado businesses who are considering becoming a P-TECH partner, the benefits go beyond societal contribution.  Ray offers that IBM P-TECH business partners reap benefits that include: creating their own custom pipeline of talent to fill future positions and having the opportunity to get a more holistic understanding of that talent prior to their job applications; providing positive brand experiences to kids in the Programs  who will be future consumers; and facilitating economic development through preparing a qualified workforce for tomorrow’s technology jobs.

With IBM P-TECH launched in Colorado and now influencing the rise of similar programs, to address our current unemployment challenges due to industry shift hastened with COVID, IBM and Ray are now working on the development of IBM’s Open P-TECH and SkillsBuild program in Colorado.  The programs provide education on relevant workplace topics that culminate into badges on cybersecurity, AI and cloud computing; and professional skills such as critical and creative thinking.

The newly launched Open P-TECH program is designed to provide access to IBM’s P-TECH program on an individual basis for learners who may not be associated with a formally-designated P-TECH school – for example, individual teachers or a students aged 14-20 years old who would benefit the most.  And, currently being offered through nonprofit organizations such as Mile High United Way in Denver, SkillsBuild provides a suite of free training courses to help upskill and reskill young adults and transitioning adults leading to industry-recognized badges and certifications. “SkillsBuild is a great program to help displaced workers, military veterans, and others who have been impacted by COVID and the changing landscape of work,” state Ray.  “SkillsBuild’s ability to offer the courses free-of-charge, provides all Coloradans the opportunity to learn new skills or enhance their current skills to help secure good paying jobs into our State’s future.”

For organizations and their leaders interested in participating in an IBM PTECH program, Open P-TECH or SkillsBuild, see more information at

or please contact IBM’s Ray Johnson at [email protected]; or COBRT’s Debbie Brown at [email protected].