Fort Worth

P-TECH Programs Create Pipeline for Skilled Workers Amid Labor Shortage

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The trade industry continues to struggle with a shortage of skilled workers, especially in the jobs that help us to have water and electricity like plumbers, electricians, and line workers.

But local school districts are emphasizing programs that are creating a pipeline of talented workers to help with the labor shortage.

These programs are known as PTECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools. Students can earn both their high school diploma and associate's degree at the same time.

Students like Fabian Ramirez are unlocking potential they never could've imagined getting a fast track on a career.

He graduated last year from the Fort Worth ISD Early Collegiate High School, which first started its operation in 2019. The school is located within the Tarrant County College South Campus and offers an experience that prepares students for the working world or a continued path toward university studies after graduation.

This can save families thousands of dollars in tuition costs, no matter what path the student chooses to take.

"It's just going to change their lives. It's going to give them different skills to navigate society and put them in circles that they need in order to build a stronger future for themselves and their families,” said Quanda Collins, Fort Worth ISD Collegiate High School Principal.

During his studies, Ramirez took advantage of a unique partnership the school has through Oncor and the city of Fort Worth Water Department – each has on-site classrooms that connect students with real-life skills workers and offer early training in jobs they'll be able to work toward right after high school.

"We learned the basics of how electricity works, where it comes from, and where it travels. There are different parts of it,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez gained a keen interest in Oncor’s classes and spent the last couple of years taking special classes aimed at a career in electricity.

"I have some family members that are electricians. So they work with electricity a lot,” he said.

In the year since graduation, Ramirez has continued his path with Oncor. The company is paying for his trade school studies at TCC and is also paying him for training and internships as a lineman.

"It’s unbelievable. Like, I would have never thought that we'll get a job like this. But TCC really made it happen,” he said.

Now at just 19 years old, he’s on track to earn a sizable income while helping the nationwide shortage for line workers.

Fabian Ramirez (third front from left) is pursuing a fulfilling but challenging career as a lineman for Oncor.

"There's definitely a need for people to join these trades,” Ramirez said. "Now, my dad can take a break from working a lot and I can help with some bills. Every once in a while, we can go out and take my family out to eat or something like that. Like now, I have the money for it.”

P-TECH is nothing new but the success is leading both Fort Worth and Dallas school districts to prioritize these programs. Both districts’ outgoing superintendents have said growing those programs have been among their chief accomplishments.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the number of graduates from DISD’s P-TECH programs is increasing and helping first-generation college students to find more opportunities.

The base salary for linemen can be as high as $86,000. While these trade jobs are hard work, Collins says students like Ramirez who are getting a head start on the training in high school is a big deal.

"He's 19. And on a trajectory to have a solid foundation, financially, no college debt,” she said. "That's the whole point of this right, is to build our system, so that we have not just one student who is able to be successful."

Collins says the P-TECH model and it's flexibility for any life path a student chooses can help ease the strain on the labor market that has been brought on by the pandemic.

"We just want to continue to build that to ensure that to ensure that we are sustained as as a people. And I think P-TECH is definitely going to be one of the stronger aspects to get us moving in that direction," she said.

After launching in 2019, PTECH programs have now expanded to 15 schools in Fort Worth ISD and have expanded the program even further this semester at TCC.

Fort Worth ISD has launched the Success High School, a new model that adopts the same concepts as the other P-TECH programs but is geared toward specific students.

Students are older and have had their educational careers interrupted for various reasons. Other students may be immigrants who are seeking to start their educational journeys. Instead of 16-week semesters, they take classes, all of them online, in eight-week blocks.

“These students can elect to take one dual credit course, or they might take more than one,” said Amy Draper of the FWISD’s Office of Innovation, in a press release. “The students will be on their own individual paths. The program is open to all our students. Not all will participate, but we hope that a large percentage choose to start their dual credit experience and then maybe, when they finish, transition right into TCC or even another post-secondary institution.”

Click here to learn more about the Success High School in FWISD and other P-TECH programs.

Click here for more information about Dallas ISD's P-TECH programs.

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