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Texas Senate Considers Bill to Fund Early College Technology Program

The Texas state senate is considering a bill that would fund a high school program that would allow technology companies to partner with schools to teach students relevant technical skills.

The students who participate in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program would receive an associate’s degree in a related technology field along with their high school degree. This model would prepare students for high-skilled, high-wage industries.

The bill would provide a $5 million startup grant for the state program, which would begin in fall 2018.

“The success of the Texas business environment depends on an educated and skilled workforce ready to contribute to our economy,” said state Sen. Larry Taylor, who proposed the bill. “The P-TECH model will provide a needed pathway for diverse post-secondary opportunities for many students and enhance our economic strength.”

The P-TECH program would span six years of academic instruction in technical and essential workplace skills. The program would also partner with the University of Texas, San Antonio, and Texas A&M, San Antonio, where P-TECH students would get guaranteed financial aid and scholarships to earn their bachelor’s degrees.

The bill was referred Monday to the Committee on Public Education.

Nearly 100 P-TECH schools opened across the United States in 2016. The New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, the New York City College of Technology, and IBM began its partnership in 2011. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty wrote a letter to President Donald Trump in November, advocating for the P-TECH educational model in schools.

Students at IBM’s P-TECH program complete an internship with IBM or one of its partners during their third year of high school. After their third year, they’re eligible to take at least one college course. IBM said that it gives P-TECH graduates first priority for its entry-level jobs.

IBM published a report on how educators could build similar schools, which said that 59 percent of the American workforce has at least some college education compared to 28 percent 40 years ago. Each community college dropout costs New York City more than $17,000 each year. PTECH was able to increase the rate of community college graduation by 10 percent.

“With your support, we could do much more,” Rometty said in her letter to Trump. “Let’s work together to scale up this approach of vocational training, creating a national corps of skilled workers trained to take the ‘new collar’ IT jobs that are in demand here in America.”

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