Does Silicon Valley have some competition? If Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets his way, the Big Apple could be making a serious grab to become the Tech Capitol of the U.S.A.
Bloomberg knows a thing or two about the digital revolution - his multi-billion dollar corporate empire was built by harnessing the latest technology to deliver information to the financial industry. As New York’s executive-in-chief, Mayor Mike has championed technology in a myriad of ways, from environmental initiatives, to creating a tech-friendly climate to attract employers like Facebook and Google.
"We're trying to make new things happen," says New York’s deputy mayor for economic development. "Companies have moved to New York and others are just starting. Google is taking up a million square feet in Chelsea. Well, the employees there will have new ideas, and they'll want to start their own companies in New York."
But the Bloomberg Administration is keenly aware that an important key to attracting tech businesses to New York City hangs on having an available, well trained workforce. As a result, the forwarding-thinking mayor has created a partnership with tech-giant IBM, the New York City Board of Education and the City University of New York to form Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a/k/a “P-Tech.” Opened in September, 2011, P-Tech is a 6 year high school with a twist -- upon graduation, students will not only receive their high school diploma, they will also be awarded their associates degree.
"People think we've always had high school as a mandatory—but 50 years ago, a relatively small population completed high school. You could argue that making high school mandatory and the GI bill were two things that fueled economic growth," says Stanley Litow, IBM Foundation president. "Well now, we have a challenge. If you get a high school diploma, you'll earn $15 an hour. If [P-Tech] graduates can hold these high-paying jobs [at IBM], it could be the same game changer as making high school mandatory."
Mentors from IBM are assigned to students, and part of the curriculum is an integrated internship program. For P-Tech students the benefits include a tuition-free associate degree and to be at "at the front of the line" for entry-level positions at the company, according to Litow. "We have large numbers of jobs for kids with associate's degrees," he says.
"We're in the first few decades of an information economy, and the skills that make you successful in that are different than the ones that made us successful in the past," says a spokesperson from Bloomberg’s office. "It wasn't clear we had the skills that would make us a global winner … we have to prepare New York City for the future."
P-Tech is only one year old, so it too early to predict its success rate, but all eyes are on the experiment. In fact, IBM is already in discussions with mayors of other large cities and plans are in the works to open schools in Chicago. If it is successful, the P-Tech project could create a whole new paradigm in U.S. education and for the American worker.