On August 12, two sections of sixty Grade 11 students at Taguig City University piloted a comprehensive new curriculum aimed at preparing them for the future of “new collar jobs”—opportunities opening up in tech’s fastest growing fields.

The program is called P-TECH, and is an IBM initiative designed to complement the K-12 system. P-TECH maps the skills that are needed in the tech world today within a flexible iterative framework, allowing for enough leeway to keep pace with rapid changes in technologies and workplaces.

P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, was conceived by IBM in 2011 as a means to fill the world’s skills gaps. Partnering with public schools, P-TECH spans grades 9 to 14 and brings together the most salient elements of high school, college, and career. There are currently 200 P-TECH schools with more than 100,000 students in 18 countries.

IBM Corporate Citizenship Manager Andrea Escalona shares that all students graduate with a high school diploma plus an associate degree in computer technology, which then enables them to either secure a position in the STEM industry or continue on to higher education studies.

Enthusiastic about their future prospects

“I think the status quo of our education curriculum is not enough to produce an efficient workforce for the future… the P-TECH program is different because it holistically enhances the full potential of students,” said Samantha Cruz, a Grade 11 student that joined IBM’s pilot.

A perk of being a P-TECH student is the opportunity to participate in enriching activities such as mentoring sessions, company visits, and educational discussions. One such activity, a series of TED Talk-like events dubbed P-TECH Talks, kick-started last Thursday with conversations surrounding cybersecurity and fake news.

In the Internet of Me, a module on data privacy and cybersecurity awareness, IBM mentor Raymond Josef Lara discussed how data is the world’s “new natural resource” and thus how important it is to protect one’s personal information, especially online. His presentation included preventive measures against common types of hacking. This was followed by Rappler journalist Vernice Tantuco’s discussion on how to spot fake news, covering tips on reverse imaging and debunking misleading posts.

P-TECH has been received with appreciation both by the students of the pilot school and their parents. Among its six tenets are its cost-free enrollment plus being first in line for job interviews at IBM.

Mont Cedric Murillo, another student enrolled in the program said, “I have an interest in art and technology, so I want to be a graphic designer. I think with the help of P-TECH my dream of achieving that is just one step away.”

Agnes Africa, Country Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility, adds that they hope to eventually scale the P-TECH model nationwide. Since sustainability is a major consideration, they are keen on collaborating with local government units that are earnest about their respective education programs.