PATERSON, NJ – “STEM on steroids” as Mayor Andre Sayegh called it, is coming to Paterson’s PANTHER Academy.

Announced by Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday, the program, more formally known as P-TECH, was co-developed by IBM and brings together public high schools, community colleges, and businesses to create a clear pathway from high school to college to career.

The location of the announcement represented one of three high schools in New Jersey that have been selected to allow students to graduate with a high school diploma, Associate degrees in competitive STEM fields, and workplace experiences such as mentorships and internships, within six years. High schools in Burlington City and New Brunswick were also selected.

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“Through this innovative partnership, students will receive a high-quality education and gain in-demand skills that employers need in the 21st century, while employers will gain a diverse pipeline of skilled employees,” said Governor Murphy who last month included STEM-focused high school programs and increasing degree attainment for all residents as keys to his economic plan to make New Jersey’s workforce more competitive and to put the state at an advantage to attract and sustain the jobs of the future. “By providing students with the skills needed for these high-wage, high-skill jobs, New Jersey is strengthening its talent base to remain economically competitive for years to come.”

Making reference to the school’s planetarium Sayegh said that through the program Paterson Schools are “aligning the stars for our city, and aligning our students for opportunities in the innovation economy.” Adding that his Administration recently appointed the city’s first Deputy Mayor of Labor and Workforce Development, and that earlier in the day had announced opportunities for free education at PCCC for local residents, Sayegh said that when it comes to getting residents job ready “we are not missing an opportunities.”

“The students we teach today must be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, jobs that don’t even exist yet” Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer said at the outset of the event. The only requirements to participate in the program which will take up to 30 students in each school, she continued, are a “curiosity and passion for STEM” and to be “interested and motivated” to create the innovations, inventions, and breakthroughs with the ability to change the world.

Also speaking at the announcement was Grace Suh, IBM’s Vice President of Education. Saying that the program has shown success through increased community college graduation rates among early participants in the P-TECH model which has been implemented in eight other states including Louisiana, Texas, and New York, Suh offered that by partnering students with industry mentors and given them access to hands, and paid, learning opportunities, students are getting better prepared for the “new collar” jobs in areas such as cyber security, cloud computing, and advanced manufacturing that are dominating the economy.

“This initiative capitalizes on the collaboration of schools, businesses, and community colleges,” said Department of Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet before adding that the state invested $400,000 in this year’s budget to go along with another $500,000 in federal funding that was obtained to launch it. “In the end, young people in traditionally underserved communities will benefit with new pathways to success in high-demand STEM fields.”

“We want to be competitive,” Senator Nellie Pou (D-35) said suggesting that the initiative was proof of what is possible when government, academia, and the private sector partner. “We want to be able to say that Paterson is on the move.”


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