Expansion of P-TECH program to address digital skills shortage
The expansion of an innovative collaboration between industry and public education hopes to address a current shortage of ICT and STEM skills that has arisen from rapid technology developments in AI, automation, data science, cloud computing and cybersecurity.
The Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) program aims to prepare students for technology-related careers through structured workplace experiences and industry skills development with industry partners. These include industry mentoring, worksite visits, paid internships and job consideration with industry partners upon completion of the program.
The program expansion was announced by NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee and representatives from industry partner IBM. It will operate from 2021 at three schools on the NSW Central Coast: Henry Kendall High School, Kariong Mountains High School and the Tumbi Umbi campus of Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College.
According to Australia’s Digital Pulse 2019 — the Australian Computing Society’s latest annual investigation into the state of our IT sector — 100,000 more tech workers are still needed in Australia by 2024.
Lee welcomed the P-TECH program as an innovative collaboration between industry and schools.
“P-TECH strengthens the connection between student learning and the skills that employers need. It improves young people’s prospects of employment,” Lee said.
“We recognise the importance of industry-school partnership models. Since late 2018, another successful initiative, the Regional Industry Education Partnerships (RIEP) program, has created over 44,000 opportunities for students across NSW to engage with over 900 employers and industry partners.”
IBM Australia & New Zealand Managing Director Katrina Troughton said “We are excited to partner with the NSW Government, local schools, businesses and education institutions to address current youth unemployment and create an industry talent pipeline with the digital skills that are in high and growing demand in industry.
“Schools, education organisations and industry partners are working together as part of the P-TECH model, enabling students to earn relevant post-secondary qualifications that connect to competitive entry-level careers, as well as develop the academic, technical and professional skills — such as critical thinking, problem-solving and communication — required to compete in the 21st century economy.”
To introduce them to the program, more than 105 students in Years 9 and 10 recently took part in P-TECH immersion activities which included virtual guest speakers from a range of industries, mentoring sessions and online workshops focused on professional skills such as communication, collaboration and leadership. A number of students also took part in regular work experience with local company Borg Manufacturing (CrossMuller).
IBM has partnered with stakeholders including the University of Newcastle, Central Coast Industry Connect, Food Futures Company, North Construction & Building, Borg Manufacturing and Central Coast Council to support students at Henry Kendall High School (Gosford), Kariong Mountains High School (Kariong Mountains) and Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College (Tumbi Umbi campus). It is expected that face-to-face mentoring and industry site visits will commence next year, when COVID-safe.
The P-TECH program is currently available in 16 schools in Australia, with more than 3000 students to date experiencing the program. In 2011, IBM co-founded the P-TECH school model in collaboration with public education partners in response to the technology skills gap that has continued to grow. IBM continues to support this public education innovation model, which has been adopted by public education authorities in 28 countries and regions — including more than 241 open schools and 600 company partners.
P-TECH is a collaboration with industry and public education, working closely with individual schools to meet local needs and requirements and ensure students develop the skills required for 21st century jobs.
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