P-TECH quietly preps future manufacturing stars

President Barack Obama visited a P-TECH high school in Brooklyn last year. On Long Island, the state program is focused on promoting careers in manufacturing.

By GREGORY ZELLER // Long Island wasn’t on the list when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new round of Pathways in Technology funding June 5, but Island educators and businesses say they are making good progress with a grant LI snagged in 2013.

Of course, they’d like more.

Known as P-TECH, after its clunky, acronym-focused name, Pathways in Technology Early College High School, the program supplies funding to applicants that focus on STEM education. Long Island P-TECH’s goal is to interest high-schoolers in manufacturing careers and introduce them to mentors and other professionals in the regional manufacturing industry. Waiting at the end is a two-year Associates of Applied Science degree from Farmingdale State.

“Imagine that high school is six years instead of four,” said Gene Silverman, executive director of regional schools and instructional programs at Nassau BOCES. “You go to school from grade nine to grade 14, and at the end of those six years you have not only a high school diploma, but an associate’s degree in engineering.”

Along the way, students benefit from “a variety of experiences in manufacturing,” she added, including internships and other exposure to professionals on actual worksites.

“The concept is to embed the kids in a course of study that gives them the real-world experience of being with adult mentors,” said Silverman, who helped write the successful 2013 proposal. “We want them to get a real feel for the work and to build experience with real companies that may ultimately hire them after they earn their associates degree.”

And the support system rallying around the regional P-TECH program has grown considerably, according to Silverman.

“Since we received the grant, we’ve formed an industry committee and added about 20 companies that are offering internships and sending speaker.”

The grant was initially built around Arkwin Industries, a Westbury hydraulics manufacturer. Other key sponsors of the application included the Nassau and Western Suffolk BOCES, educational partner Farmingdale State and the Freeport, Uniondale and Wyandanch school districts.

Also attaching their names to the application: the Long Island Forum for Technology, the Long Island STEM Hub, which is one of 10 regional state hubs promoting science, technology, engineering and math education, and the regional manufacturers’ alliance ADDAPT.

“We realized early on that Arkwin wasn’t some giant conglomerate of a company, so we’d have to add other manufacturing companies, and the response has been excellent,” Silverman said.

According to the New York State P-TECH Leadership Council, 10,000 students across the state will ultimately benefit from the program by earning high school diplomas and two-year college degrees with a STEM focus. The $3 million in funding Cuomo announced June 5 will support an additional seven schools across the state, raising New York’s allotment of P-TECH schools to 33.

All told, the state plans to award $21 million over seven years of P-TECH funding.

“By linking the skills taught in classrooms with the demands of 21st century employers, we are providing our students with the resources they need to build a successful future,” the governor said in a written statement. “We are linking colleges, universities and the private sector to create new opportunities for students and a talented workforce that will lead New York into the future.”

Although the Long Island region was already funded once, it may receive additional P-TECH grants in the future. Silverman, who got help on the successful 2013 application from a professional grant writer, cited several Long Island applications submitted pursuant to the 2014 funding round – none was successful – and noted that “there isn’t necessarily one P-TECH grant per region.”

“On Long Island, we have a lot of opportunity,” she said. “There’s only one Long Island P-TECH now, but we only cover three school districts and there are a lot more areas that can benefit from this.

“When we wrote our grant application, a lot of people from BOCES and the school districts and the college and the regional manufacturing industry worked very hard,” Silverman added. “When you write a grant, you get points for doing a good job from the impartial people who read the applications and score them.

“I’m sure whoever wasn’t awarded a grant last year is asking how they can do better next time.”