Meeting Critical Workforce Needs: How the Dallas Regional Chamber Helped Bring P-TECH to Texas

Before Texas’ first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program could open this year at Seagoville High School, the interests of two Fortune Global 500 companies, North Texas education and business leaders, and the State of Texas had to connect.

The DRC engaged in behind-the-scenes work necessary to bring together the key players, among them: Dallas-based AT&T, Accenture PLC, the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and the State of Texas.

In short, P-TECH is a new way of incorporating sought-after 21st Century job skills – such as installing complex security systems, telecommunications equipment and lighting systems — into high-school curricula. Aside from receiving skill-specific training, the students also work with industry mentors, and earn associates’ degrees and industry certificates in career paths they’ve chosen. This combined academic and practical approach to learning provides employers with a sorely needed hire-ready workforce.

Businesses across the Dallas-Fort Worth region cite their number one challenge as finding and keeping talent and skilled workers to fill their jobs of today and build their workforce of tomorrow. The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) is committed to leading the area’s effort to “education for employment” by providing quality and access to our local education system.

The business case for educating for employment is compelling, especially to fill critical workforce needs. However, it requires a fundamental shift in our education pipeline and new innovative educational strategies. The first P-TECH school opened in 2011 in New York City through a coordinated effort by IBM, New York City Department of Education, City University of New York and others. Since then, 40 others have opened across the United States.

Here’s an insider’s sequence of events describing how the DRC helped P-TECH launch at Dallas ISD:

  • Not long after P-TECH launched in New York, IBM (a Chamber partner) invited the Dallas Regional Chamber’s education team to tour the school in NYC and to vet the curriculum.
  • Impressed by what they saw, members of the DRC’s education team shared their experiences with community supporters of P-TECH, and leaders at DISD and the Dallas County Community College District, and encouraged the districts to explore the potential of P-Tech. The districts decided to pursue the opportunity, and Seagoville High School was paired up with Eastfield Community College.
  • As part of its work with the Pathways to Prosperity Network initiative, an ongoing effort to better equip students with science, technology, engineering and math skills, the Chamber’s education team then encouraged the Texas Education Agency to adopt P-TECH. The state’s buy-in was integral in allowing Texas high school students to earn state-sanctioned college credits before graduating from a Texas public high school.
  • To identify skills that would best meet workforce needs, the Dallas Regional Chamber’s data team analyzed statistics to identify the fastest growing occupations in North Texas, and the Chamber’s advisory council members described the aptitudes they’re looking for, from construction projects management to information technology systems expertise. This led the Chamber to recommend that Dallas’ P-TECH program emphasize curricula in health care and IT.
  • In the meantime, members of the Chamber worked within an informal committee to identify and to recruit local industry partners that would be willing to join DISD’s P-TECH venture. AT&T and Accenture both surfaced as top choices.
  • Both companies agreed to join the effort, and with continued guidance from IBM, Texas’ first P-TECH program opened at Seagoville High School on Aug. 22, 2016.

“The staff of the Dallas Regional Chamber has been one of our integral partners involved in bringing educational, business, and government leaders together to support the Collegiate Academies,” says DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

The Chamber’s involvement in the North Texas P-TECH initiative fits squarely in its mission to help the Dallas region to become the most prosperous places to live, work and to do business in the United States.

“It is in the long-term best interests of DRC members and regional companies to invest in and advocate for a world-class local education system to create a pipeline of highly skilled, highly trained workers to meet the region’s future workforce demands,” said Dale Petroskey, president and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber. Seven more P-TECH programs are slated for Dallas ISD high schools for 2017, and the Dallas Regional Chamber has been working steadily to recruit industry partners for them, and helping education partners hone their curricula to meet industry needs. These programs opened classes this Fall as Collegiate Academies while awaiting their state-wide designations as Early College High Schools.

Read more in the Dallas Morning News.