Program intended to improve workforce development by degrees

Phil Castle

Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Given the challenges of recruiting qualified employees, Jessica Smith says she’s eager to join in efforts to help fill the workforce pipeline in Mesa County.

Smith, vice president of human resources at Reynolds Polymer Technology, was among those participating in a news conference announcing a program enabling students to simultaneously earn high school diplomas and community college degrees.

Starting this fall, Central High School will become the seventh high school in Colorado to join the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. Students will complete their high school education at Central while also earning an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering technology, machining or welding at Western Colorado Community College at no charge.

Reynolds Polymer has joined GPD Global, Jabil Lewis Engineering, Schmueser and Associates and Wren Industries in supporting P-TECH. The West Chapter of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance trade association also worked to bring the program to the Grand Valley.

While the P-TECH program could expand to other Mesa County School District 51 high schools, Central was selected as the first for several reasons.

The state grant funding the program is geared toward schools that serve larger populations of students from low-income families, are English language learners or first-generation college-bound students.

Moreover, the P-TECH program will build on efforts at Central High School to prepare District 51 students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, said Central Principal Lanc Sellden. “P-TECH will continue that growth.”

Central High School was the first in Colorado to earn national certification from the National Institute for STEM Education.

Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University, said the P-TECH program also builds on a lengthy partnership among CMU, Western Colorado Community College and Mesa County School District 51 to offer high school students access at no charge to training and college courses. “We  can  create  so  many  more  things together than we can separately.”

Bridgette Sundermann, who as vice president of community college affairs at CMU oversees Western Colorado Community College, agreed. “When we come together, good things happen.”

Students can elect to complete the P-TECH program in four, five or six years. Students then could opt to go on to a four-year college degree program. But they’d also be prepared to enter the workforce if they choose, Sundermann said.

District 51 Superintendent Diana Sirko said P-TECH will create new career pathways for students while also developing the local workforce. That benefits students and businesses, Sirko said. “When skills meet opportunity, success happens.”

At Reynolds Polymer, Smith said recruiting qualified job applicants can be challenging. “We struggle to find employees.”

That’s why Smith said she’s looking forward to students completing the P-TECH program  and joining a company that manufactures acrylic components for some of the largest aquariums and water features in the world. “We want you to be a part of that.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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Posted by on Mar 5 2019. Filed under Business News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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