Students attending Colorado TECH schools will soon have the opportunity to earn an associate degree after an extended, six-year long high school education. St. Vrain Valley and the Falcon School District 49 are the first two districts approved for launching P-TECH in the next school year.
The program was passed into law in 2015, and it aims at preparing high school students for tech-related, high-skill jobs, the Department of Higher Education said as it announced the acceptance of proposals. The P-TECH program is available to post-secondary education schools, school districts and BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) and aims to provide students with, "[A]n education that's explicitly designed to connect them with good-paying jobs in the STEM fields," said Crisanta Duran, the Colorado House Majority Leader, according to BizJournal.
The innovative program will allow high school students to attend STEM-related classes for six years and earn an associate degree by the time they graduate. Students will not pay any college class fees because these will be taken care of by the state of Colorado. The program includes two years of community college, mentorship programs, and internships for learners during the last two years of their P-TECH education.
The application submission process began September 1, 2015, and the state gave precedence to schools applying before October 15, 2015. Classes are to start as early as this summer, and although the program is six years long, students can and will be encouraged to complete it in less time.
P-TECH creates a partnership between public and private organizations. Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia said:
"One goal behind P-TECH schools is to provide a direct pipeline from studying to working and earning a living wage." He added, "Colorado is fortunate to have a number of businesses that are hungry for talented workers, and P-TECH schools will help fulfill workforce needs."
The St. Vrain school district will form a partnership with the Front Range Community College and IBM to realize the program. According to TimesCall, St. Vrain students who complete the six-year program will earn an associate degree in Computer Information Systems and have the opportunity to land an interview with IBM among other organizations.
Brandon Shaffer will oversee the P-TECH program in the district, which plans to welcome its first class of students in the next school year. Regina Renaldi, the Assistant Superintendent at St. Vrain, said about the program's value for students and their families that:
"Two years of college in high school with no charge to the family, plus an internship and mentorship — I don't think you can beat that lineup," she said. "We're beyond thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to students."
The Skyline High School in Longmont will be the first school in the district to host the program. Student applications will be available before March, TimesCall reports. St.Vrain superintendent Don Haddad commented on the program:
"It's really exciting for students. They can pursue post-secondary options, staying on the same campus. As they graduate, they have an amazing opportunity to move directly into the workforce for some of the best companies out there."
The second district participating in the program will form a partnership between the James Irwin Charter School, the Pikes Peak Community College, Bal Seal Engineering, and the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs.