I was raised by a single mother whose basketball dreams were cut short when she got pregnant with me at age 16 and dropped out of high school. As a senior attending Jasper County High School in Ridgeland, South Carolina 27 years ago, I entered and won an essay writing contest responding to the question, “Is the United States Ready for a Black President?” I wrote that essay while living in the area called, Wagon Branch that you will not even find on a South Carolina map. My life is an incredible journey enhanced by the foundations of public Head Start and public schools from pre-K through grade 12, and is proof that the zip code where you reside as a secondary student does not have to ultimately predict your place in the world.
It’s impossible to overstate how thrilled we were to have President Obama visit P-TECH. Of course, the students, faculty and I had been delighted when the President called us out in his State of the Union address – saying that our country needed to give every student the types of opportunities found at P-TECH – but to visit us in person…Wow!
What really moved me was the effect Mr. Obama had on my students. These are young people from all over New York City who have come to P-TECH in search of a better education and a better life. Our school is open admissions; we don’t “cherry pick” our students. All that’s required of them is interest, drive and the willingness to work hard to achieve their goals. For many of them, that means breaking free of generations of poverty, walking away from the patterns of failure that plague their contemporaries, and becoming the first members of their families to obtain a postsecondary degree.
President Barack Obama addressed the students and faculty of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, New York on Friday,
October 25, 2013.
In his February State of the Union address, the President praised the academic rigor and job-force relevance of P-TECH, saying “We need to give every American student opportunities like this.” To help make that happen, Mr. Obama’s 2014 budget includes a $300 million investment to help America regain the lead in college attainment and ensure the creation of a productive pathway from high school to college and career.
Opened in September 2011, P-TECH is a collaboration among the New York City Public Schools, The City University of New York and IBM. An open-admissions, grades 9 – 14 institution, P-TECH provides a rigorous academic and workplace skills curriculum leading to a no-cost associate degree in technology and preferential consideration for jobs at IBM. The P-TECH model has been so successful that five similar schools have opened in Chicago, four more are planned for New York City, and New York State will rollout 16 new P-TECH-model schools in 2014.
Stanley S. Litow is IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation. Mr. Litow is a former Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools.
The promise of American education has always been one of economic opportunity and democratic citizenship. We tell all students that if they work hard, achieve academically and complete their education, they will be able to find good jobs, lead productive lives and participate fully in our democracy, where the people are the ultimate rulers.
For most of the twentieth century, unfortunately, American schools fell far short of that promise. Our system of education was tracked, often counter-productively, with one class of students recruited into rigorous academic programs which led to post-secondary education and white-collar, professional employment, and another class of students pushed into vocational programs which led directly to blue-collar and pink-collar employment. The first class of students were taught to use their minds well, so they could be molders of the world; the second class of students were taught to use their hands, as they were believed to be destined to a life of manual labor. The first class of students were prepared to be active citizens, helping to shape our common purposes as a people and a nation; the second class of students were expected to work in factories, where they could potentially command middle class wages, but more importantly never expected to be empowered as policymakers, as the movers and shakers of our democracy.
The recently released Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and National Center for Education Statistics survey of cognitive and workplace skills confirms the unfortunate truth about America’s poor standing among the world’s industrialized nations. American adults scored far below their counterparts in Japan, Finland, Australia and Germany on math literacy and problem-solving skills, and the U.S.
is falling behind competing nations in the race to obtain job-related skills.
In my latest article for The Huffington Post, I examine America’s skills crisis and offer concrete strategies for how government, educators and employers must work together to reshape our approach to skills training, and begin the next great era of American progress.
Three out of four start-ups fail, so why would a charity bet on setting up innovative new ventures when the odds are even worse than heading for your nearest roulette table? It is not in a charity’s DNA to take risks. Yet, being reminded constantly of the need to be “innovative” must create cognitive dissonance in the minds of sector leaders, their fundraisers, their boards and anyone who has to wonder how their organisation is going to make payroll by the end of the month. Meanwhile, nonprofits must play by rules that prohibit risk-taking while demanding that they deliver innovative solutions to meet increased service demands with dwindling financial resources. It is enough to give anyone an ulcer!
In 2011, I became part of a team that acquired funding to start an innovative online service for charities. Deal Effect – which will launch later this year – is a nonprofit fundraising platform that will offer daily deals on goods and services to consumers. Eleven percent of all deals sold will be donated to a chosen charity, with the goal of raising over €2.1 million in the next three years for charities participating in the venture.
Across the U.S. and around the world, the staggering problem of youth unemployment can be difficult to judge accurately because many young people have yet to enter the workforce. What we do know is that unemployment among the young is greater than 50 percent in countries such as Greece and Spain, and perhaps greater than 30 percent in some cities and states in the U.S.
In my recent article “Innovating to Strengthen Youth Employment” (Innovations, MIT Press, October 2013), I examine the following factors to shed some light on the causes of youth unemployment and how communities, educators and employers can address them:
- What are the roots of youth unemployment, and why is it that increased high school graduation rates have not translated into greater employment and earnings?
- Where are the jobs, and what types and levels of training are (and will be) required for young people to participate in the 21st century economy?
- How can we drive innovation across an educational system that hasn’t evolved significantly since the Second World War?
- What are the pathways to prosperity that can clarify and streamline the next generation’s journey from high school to college and career?
- Where should we begin to ensure that proven programs for success are properly funded and made available to all?
The answers may surprise you. But even more encouraging is the fact that addressing and overcoming these challenges is well within our reach. If we allocate the proper resources and make strategic use of programs already in place, we will realize significant and quantifiable benefits.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement of 16 new “early college” technology-focused high schools based on IBM’s P-TECH model has implications far beyond state borders. A national study by the Brookings Institution concludes that half of all STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs are “middle skill” positions requiring postsecondary training but not a four-year degree. And the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the American economy will create 14 million new middle skill jobs over the next 10 years – on top of the 29 million jobs that exist right now.
It has never been more imperative that we heed President Obama’s call to transform American education and strengthen our global competitiveness. Community-minded employers must forge partnerships with educators and governments, and strengthen the connection between education and jobs.
Read my op-ed in the Albany Times-Union for the full story about how visionary leadership and collaboration will help the nation’s young people realize their dreams for productive and prosperous futures.
Linda Sanford is IBM’s Senior Vice President for Enterprise Transformation.
New York’s educational system enters a new era of effectiveness with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement to create 16 new grades 9 – 14 joint high school/community college programs across the state. Each of New York State’s 10 economic development zones will receive at least one new school based on the model that has been so successful with the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in New York City and the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy and other schools in Chicago. These new schools – each a partnership among the Governor’s office, The State University of New York, The New York State Education Department and its school districts, and IBM and a host of other companies – will represent a critical step toward bringing a new world of opportunity to the young people of New York State.
Graduates of the new P-TECH-model schools will receive both a high school diploma and a postsecondary associate degree in technology – preparing them to enter the rapidly expanding “middle skill” job market for people with postsecondary training, though not necessarily a four-year college degree. The curriculum for each school will be developed in collaboration with that school’s corporate partner. This unique combination of academic rigor and career focus has captured the attention of educators, employers and legislators across the U.S. – including President Obama, who called for more schools like P-TECH
in his State of the Union address; the City of Chicago, which opened five P-TECH-model schools last September; and New York City, which just announced plans to open five
When IBM joined forces with The City University of New York, the New York City College of Technology and the New York City Department of Education to create the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – a new school with a strong career and technical education program – we knew we were witnessing an historic collaborative effort to close the job skills gap for New York’s students. Though initially small, P-TECH was destined to become a laboratory for learning that would benefit other school districts, corporations and – above all – young people. Like me, many New York City public school leaders had long embraced the concept of public-private partnerships like P-TECH that would strengthen our young people’s technical skills and give them a leg up in college and high-growth-area careers.
Now that the cloning of P-TECH is becoming a reality across our city, state and nation, with a strong endorsement from President Barack Obama, it is more than time to urge Congress to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. More has to be done to prepare students with the kinds of technical skills that the labor market increasingly demands. A reauthorized and stronger Perkins Act can help accomplish that.