P-TECH vital to manufacturing

Pathways in Technology Early College High School Program (P-TECH) is an important resource for the future of local manufacturing. Unfortunately, the Jamestown City School District has proposed discontinuing their support of students enrolled in P-TECH. This decision will negatively impact the 17 Jamestown students currently in the program who will be pulled from the P-TECH school.

At eighth grade these students along with their family made a decision to enter a program with the promise of securing an education along a technical career pathway.

As part of the program these students earn a college degree in a technical program which culminates in a career within manufacturing. If JPS were to pull out of the program it will have long lasting implications to sustaining this highly touted regional training program as Chautauqua County’s largest district will no longer be participating. This will devastate a program that was designed to help provide a pipeline of skilled workers to manufacturers in our community.

Manufacturers need a skilled workforce. We know manufacturers require a skilled manufacturing workforce to grow their businesses. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic much of our manufacturing has remained in operation. Manufacturing will lead the way out of the current economic challenges and a skilled workforce is essential to regaining our footing. Chautauqua County and our region continues to suffer from an inadequate pool of talent. We need programs like P-TECH to address our workforce and economic needs.

P-TECH is statewide and nationally supported model for the development of a skilled workforce. P-TECH is a public private collaboration that has been highly successful. P-TECH aligns middle to high school to technical college to careers in manufacturing. P-TECH has been strongly supported locally by the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier. In addition, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Council of New York State and the Manufacturers Alliance of New York State are strong supporters of the program. We are fortunate to have a P-TECH program in Chautauqua County and we must protect this asset.

There is a moral obligation to fulfill the commitment to current students and families who signed onto the P-TECH program. There is a moral obligation to the Jamestown students in the program and their families. The students at 8th grade (13 years old) and their families made a commitment to a career pathway that leads to a career in manufacturing. The school district made a commitment to these students and their families. These students made a conscious decision to achieve education and training that leads to a manufacturing career with the understanding that the school was supporting that decision. Of the 17 students, three are in the final year of the program, four are starting full time at JCC, four are starting their senior year of high school, four are starting their junior year of high school and five are starting their sophomore year of high school.

PTECH is a small financial investment for JPS and a good use of taxpayer dollars. We recognize that these are challenging times for our public-school districts. However, because of the state cost-based aid reimbursement process the total cost for JPS to support the 17 remaining students in the program and 3 new freshman students would be $141,320. Notably, Gov. Andrew Cuomo kept cost-based aid in the current budget. This is the type of investment that our school districts should be making to support students interested in manufacturing careers and the future of manufacturing in our community.

PTECH is a model for sharing services. Providing a technical education is an expensive endeavor. The cost of securing and maintaining equipment and technology are significant cost drivers in career focused technical training. Training specific to manufacturing technology requires ongoing expenditures on raw materials used for practicing hands on skills and project work. The P-TECH model is a resource for school districts throughout Chautauqua County and Southern Erie County and a great example of an efficient use of resources and tax dollars to address a major need within our regional economy.

Manufacturing in Chautauqua County represents $4.5 billion in shipments per year. 19% of the Chautauqua County workforce is in manufacturing, well beyond the 9% national average. Manufacturing imports new dollars into our economy that are then recirculated through wages, benefits, services, product purchases and taxes. It is paramount to sustaining and growing our manufacturing sector that we maintain programs such as P-TECH that are developing a pipeline of technically trained workers in advanced manufacturing.

Todd Tranum is president and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier.


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