P-TECH: Connecting Students with the Skills for In-Demand Jobs

Colorado Succeeds works to ensure all students have access to educational experiences that prepare them to achieve their greatest potential. That’s why we are so excited to see the P-TECH school model expanding into Colorado.

P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, is a new educational model that has received national attention for its ability to expand opportunities in STEM education and better prepare graduates for middle-skill jobs. Middle skill jobs require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

The expansion of P-TECH schools into our state is an exciting opportunity for the business community to help better align K-12 education with workforce needs. In fact, exciting developments are already underway in Denver and Longmont as businesses – including IBM – along with education providers, begin laying the groundwork to open the state’s first P-TECH schools. If you’re interested in opening a P-TECH school, use this page as your resource and let Colorado Succeeds get you connected.

Looking to get the scoop on P-TECH? Check out this video interview with our member Ray Johnson of IBM about this innovative model and its many benefits.

What is a P-TECH School?

A P-TECH school is a free, open, public high school that includes grades 9-14. P-TECH schools integrate high school, college courses, and the workplace with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The result is a seamless pathway that allows students to graduate with a high school diploma, an Associate’s degree in a STEM field (at no cost to them), and relevant professional experience in some of Colorado’s most high-growth industries.

Colorado Employers: A Demand in Need of Supply

By 2020, 74 percent of Colorado jobs will require an education or training beyond high school. Nearly 55 percent of those jobs will require a STEM-related post-secondary education. However, our state isn’t on track to meet this demand. Currently, fewer than 25 percent of high school graduates are able to attain the post-secondary training and credentials required for STEM careers. This gap, among others, has led to Colorado employers spending more than $19 million annually to import talent to fill unmet workforce needs. With 16% of the STEM workforce close to retirement, the time to act is now.

graduation caps during commencement

The Success of P-TECH

The innovative P-TECH model offers an exciting opportunity to reverse these trends and provide Colorado employers with a local pipeline of skilled workers. Across the nation, P-TECH schools are preparing students for middle-skill jobs in fields ranging from IT to energy extraction. After just four years (and two years ahead of schedule), the first P-TECH school in Brooklyn has already graduated its first class. Each graduate in this small group has either accepted a full-time job or a full scholarship to a four-year university. Amongst the school’s first cohort of students, around 70 percent are on track to graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree in six years or less. This is in stark contrast to the national average, in which around 70 percent of students who attempt a two-year degree fail to finish in three years.


What makes the P-TECH model so unique is the strong and essential collaboration between three key partners: a school district, one or more employers, and a higher education institution. All three work closely together to create a seamless pathway for students to earn a high school diploma, industry-recognized certificates, and an Associate’s degree, all while gaining relevant professional experience. Upon graduation, students can choose to continue their studies at a four-year school, or to enter the workforce with industry connections and the skills for well paying, middle class jobs.

P-TECH is not a traditional pathway or concurrent enrollment program. The model is unique in that it helps ensure students receive an industry-recognized degree, not just college credits. This is earned at no cost to the student, and presents an opportunity to confront low college completion rates. Additionally the clear connection between school work and careers, and the opportunities for paid internships, mentorships, and job shawdowing, only encourage students to complete the program.

P-TECH is an improvement over other programs because it deliberately involves business in the planning, development, and execution of the school. For the first time, local businesses will be able to help create the entire plan for a school and engage in shared decision-making for the school’s operation. Unlike other programs where schools and businesses partner on one-off initiatives, P-TECH schools ensure close collaboration between a district (or charter), a community college, and one or more employers. This makes certain that students gain real-world experiences and employers build a local workforce with the specific skills needed to grow their business.

P-TECH also creates a seamless experience for students by syncing up funding structures for 9-14 models. While concurrent enrollment and post-secondary models provided students with two discrete opportunities to receive additional training, P-TECH allows a student to attend one school from 9th grade through two years post-secondary training. This system makes post-secondary training more accessible to students and families.

P-TECH students will receive invaluable workplace learning, internships, mentoring, and will be first in line for jobs, which are all critical to help ensure student success. The program also provides clear signals to students about the type of training necessary to enter in-demand careers. Because businesses are closely involved with the creation and operation of the schools, students will have clear signals about which programs of study will lead to employment.

Business People Making Notes During Meeting

How to Open a P-TECH School

The first step to developing a P-TECH school is establishing the necessary partners. These include a school district, a local community college, and one or more local high growth industry employer(s). These three partners must submit a partnership agreement and application with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Employer responsibilities are specified in the agreement, and range from providing workplace education and experience to informing course design.

Three approved P-TECH schools have begun operating in the 2016-17 school year. They are (1) St. Vrain Valley, (2) James Irwin Charter School, and Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Applications for the 2017-18 school year are due Dec. 1, 2016. For additional information on the P-TECH application process, click here. For more information about P-TECH partnerships, click here.


Get Involved

Colorado Succeeds is continuing to work closely with IBM and school districts to establish P-TECH schools. If you are interested in learning more about P-TECH or if you would like to bring P-TECH to your community, please fill out the form below. You can also visit P-TECH.org for a wealth of resources and information.

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If you are interested in other opportunities to get involved, click here.