IBM’s P-TECH program graduated 29 students in its first class at West Baltimore’s Carver Vocational Technical High School in June. While all of the students are receiving their high school diploma, 12 of the students completed a six-year program in four years, and earned their associate degree along with their high school diploma.
The students received either a free associate degree in cybersecurity and assurance or computer information systems when they graduated the program. The program included paid summer internships with IBM and college courses at Baltimore City Community College.
“These young people are innately resilient and have proven that Black students can thrive in emerging technology fields,” said IBM Education Manager De’Rell Bonner.
IBM is among many tech companies trying to boost diversity in the tech workforce with programs like P-TECH. Within the industry, leaders like Google and Microsoft self-reported to Wired that the number of Black and Latinx technical employees rose by less than a percentage point at both companies since 2014.
Through P-TECH, IBM offers graduates not just an associate degree, but first-in-line job opportunities with IBM, if they so choose. The program originated in Brooklyn, then expanded to Baltimore in 2016 with two schools, including Carver. The model has since expanded to schools in other Maryland jurisdictions, such as Dundalk High School in Baltimore County.
SURPRISE! Our school leadership & class advisors are on a mission to personally celebrate every graduating senior! Congratulations to @BaltCitySchools #Classof2020 for persevering to such a milestone! @SonjaSantelises #BMoreHeroes #TeamCitySchools pic.twitter.com/JcNcuQWPf1
— PTECH Carver (@PtechCarver) May 20, 2020
Big picture aside, opportunities like P-Tech undeniably improve lives. Jai’Marri Moulden who is graduating the program in four years with an associate degree in cybersecurity sees P-Tech as a jump start in pursuing the success he wants out of life.
“It’s something you can fall back on,” Moulden said of the associate degree. “You’ll also be ahead of everybody else that’s your age and that’s on the level you’re supposed to be on. It’s a great advantage.”
Moulden has decided to further his education at a four-year university and major in computer science. Others in his graduating class may choose to work for IBM or another tech company. Maybe they’ll choose none of the above.
“It’s not about career or work,” said Bonner. “It’s about equipping young people with options.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.