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Friday, 06 September 2013 10:38

Free College, Anyone?

By Chelsea DiSchiano | News

SARATOGA COUNTY – Thanks to a new state program that will give high school students the opportunity to prepare for in-demand technology and manufacturing jobs, up to 6,000 students throughout the state can now look forward to earning both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree by the time they’re 18.

Ballston Spa Central School District (BSCSD) and Saratoga Springs City District (SSCD) were two of the 16 districts in the state selected to participate in the new program called Pathways in Technology Early High School, or P-TECH, in which higher education institutions and technology companies team up to provide the students with college courses while they are still in high school.

BSCSD is using the P-TECH grant to build upon its existing program, Clean Technologies & Sustainable Industries Early College High School (ECHS), which prepares students for college and careers in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced technology, including semi-conductor manufacturing. The district started its ECHS program in 2011, partnering with Hudson Valley Community College and NYSERDA to teach students at the college’s TEC-SMART facility in Malta.

The program has expanded to include over 25 business partners and enrolls over 110 students from 20 high schools in seven counties for the fall 2013 semester. With the addition of the P-TECH grant, the district will continue to partner with Hudson Valley but will now also work with industry leaders GlobalFoundries, Cisco and TRC Engineering.

“P-TECH fits so well into the model we’ve already created,” said Laurel Logan-King, assistant superintendent for Curriculum, Assessment & Pupil Services at BSCSD. “The program is a wonderful opportunity for students in our clean technologies program and it’s great for interested students to get an understanding of college students’ work.”

The ECHS curriculum, once further developed with P-TECH, will provide mentoring, job shadowing, workplace visits and field experiences. Logan-King said the district is hoping to recruit up to 60 ninth-graders for the program in 2014.

“P-TECH is a seven-year grant, so this year is our planning year and we hope to have up to 60 ninth grade students enroll and build up from there,” she explained.

In addition to Ballston Spa students, teens who attend Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES will partner with SUNY Adirondack to expand on its already existent BOCES Advanced Manufacturing program.

“The program gives students the opportunity to be innovators and use their creativity towards real-world applications,” said Joseph Greco, K-12 director of math, science and technology integration at SSCSD. “Through our partnership with BOCES, SUNY and GlobalFoundries, students will be honing their 21st century life skills to be a strong contributor to both our social and economic community.”

Only seven Saratoga students are currently enrolled in the advanced manufacturing program due to a single class of 20 students being shared with two other districts, Greco said. In 2014, the seven juniors will progress into their second year which will make room for seven more students, making a total of 14 Saratoga students who will participate in the enhanced P-TECH program when it begins.

Greco said the exposure to the program will benefit all participating students when it comes to finding a job after graduation.

“Part of the program is to have students do job shadowing and internships,” Greco said. “Through this early exposure to the hands-on manufacturing, we believe that students will have the potential to be employed at entry-level positions immediately after graduation or have a 28-credit head-start towards a 2- or 4-year degree in manufacturing.”

“Students will earn an associate degree at no cost to their families and will be first in line for jobs with participating companies when they graduate,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “These public-private partnerships are a model for success for our students, our employers and our regional economies.”

Gov. Cuomo said the program is the country’s first to combine education and economic development. It was launched with the help of IBM and is supported by the State Education Department. The 2013-14 state budget included $4 million requested by Cuomo for the P-TECH program, with additional funding expected to come through the state Department of Education.

The programs established in the region will begin recruiting students and building partnerships starting this academic year and will enroll their first students in September 2014.

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