Even as the economy limps along, technology companies say they can't find workers with the specific skills they need to fill their open positions. Community colleges say their incoming students often aren't ready to take the college courses that could prepare them for good jobs in technical fields. Meanwhile, many students can't see themselves heading to a four-year college after high school, and high schools know their diplomas are no longer enough to get graduates good jobs.
Maybe if students, high schools, community colleges and technology companies worked together, they could get what they need.
That's the idea behind the first P-TECH program -- short for Pathways in Technology Early College High School -- on Long Island, a collaboration between Longwood High School, Suffolk County Community College, Eastern Suffolk BOCES and CA Technologies of Islandia, that has been fostered by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).
Starting in fall 2014, about 20 Longwood ninth-graders will begin a six-year program designed to give them both a Regents diploma and a college-level associate's degree in applied science or computer science. Each student will have a mentor from CA Technologies helping him or her with academics and workplace skills. Ideally, the result will be an inside track on jobs with the company.
The program is modeled after one at Brooklyn's Pathways in Technology High School, which works in partnership with IBM and the City University of New York. It was highlighted by President Barack Obama in this year's State of the Union address.
Four-year colleges are not the answer for everyone, but these days a high school diploma provides great jobs for almost no one. Creating paths that give students the skills they need to succeed and employers the workers they need to flourish is crucial. The Longwood program should be watched closely, and if it is successful, emulated widely.