Recruitment started with 170 participating students, coming from three Dublin schools: St. Joseph’s Christian Brothers School, Marin College, and Larkin Community College, attending “taster activities” over six months. These included several workshops that offered practical and hands-on activities, giving students a chance to analyze data, make predictions, solve problems, and build and program robots. Students had a chance to meet the schools’ industry partners - IBM, Cisco, Virgin Media, Irish Water, and Irish Life - as well as its college partner, the National College of Ireland. An inspiring visit was to IBM’s Technology Campus where students experienced the X-Force Command Cyber Tactical Operations Center, the first-of-its-kind training, simulation and security operations center on wheels.
The activities gave students, including Nicola Wasilewska, who has a strong interest in art, an idea of some of experiences and skills they would learn if they attended the P-TECH school.
“I was curious about P-TECH because I enjoy programming and then I realized that I could learn more about art and how I could be creative with robots,” says Wasilewska, a first-year student at Larkin Community College. “I am really into it and really looking forward to the future. I wasn’t sure if I would want to do P-TECH, but now I really want to.”
Most students recruited for P-TECH are from disadvantaged neighborhoods. There are no testing or grade requirements to get in; enrollment is based on interest.
The P-TECH school in Ireland gives students the opportunity to earn both their secondary school qualification and a QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) level 6 qualification that’s in demand by employers. (The equivalent in the United States is students earning both their high-school diploma and a two-year associate’s degree.)
Students also get opportunities to have industry mentors and paid internships, along with guaranteed interviews upon graduation.
“These students are making history,” says Gerard Cullen, principal of St. Joseph’s. “They will be the first in Ireland (and Europe) to enroll as P-TECH students and to complete school, not only with their traditional school qualification but with a P-TECH qualification and with the workplace skills which will give them the ability to make informed choices in their lives. They may go on to further education or into entry level positions with these or other industry partners, or they may do both, work and continue to study.”
“The future is very bright for these young people.”