Today, a successful – and possibly revolutionary – school concept out of US has arrived in Geelong and Ballarat in the form of two P-Tech schools, providing youth there some promising new career pathways.
The Pathways in Technology (or P-Tech) model is being unveiled as the Federal Government moves ahead with its national innovation and science agenda, a push to make Australia a more competitive 21st century economy.
Nicholas Wyman, CEO of Skilling Australia Foundation, told The Educator that the two new schools will provide students with the skills they need but in a streamlined and exciting way that negates the need for lengthy apprenticeships.
Wyman explained how the two new schools will make a meaningful difference to students.
“In Geelong, youth unemployment pushing towards 20%, so it’s absolutely critical for the students of the region to be prepared well beyond school,” Wyman told The Educator.
“All of the Year 9 students are enrolled in the learning experiences over the next 12 months, and this will be an opportunity for them to meet the employers and get involved in some hands-on project-based activity.
“In quite a few schools in the region, a lot of kids aren’t even getting to the end of high school, and when they are they’re not doing very well at it. So we need to ask: ‘who’s fault is that?’”
Wyman said schools should look at the way they deliver their curriculum and ask whether it is engaging and suitable for all students. He added that P-Tech schools give students the opportunity to undertake regular high school but also advanced STEM-based learning programs.
So far, the P-Tech model has received a high degree of interest from other states around the nation.
“We’ve fielded a lot of questions about the P-Tech school model from educators in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. At the end of the day, I think it would be a great idea to roll out this model further,” he said.
“If a student ends up finishing in a P-Tech school and goes to university, that’s a great outcome, because we’re talking about students who might not have had the aspiration to go to university.”
“This learning program allows students to learn at their own rate, which is very attractive to young students.”
Wyman pointed out that the majority of apprentices often complain that four years of study is too long and sometimes lose motivation as a result of what they perceive to be a frustrating and drawn-out process.
“With the P-Tech model, educators at the forefront but industry and community are very much involved as well,” he said.
“Both of these schools [in Geelong and Ballarat] have a steering committee, comprising people, such as principals, employer partners and government employee, who are serious about making a change.”
Wyman, who has travelled overseas extensively, said the world was rapidly changing and this alone called for a new approach as to how schools motivate and link students with promising career opportunities.
“Australia has definitely dropped the ball in terms of manufacturing because we’re not focusing in the right place…on the right kind of manufacturing,” he explained.
Wyman referred to Andrew Liveris, the Australian-born CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, who told the Federal Government five years ago that Australia must become more involved in high-tech manufacturing due to high labour costs.
“In Australia, we need to ask ‘what is our thing?’ There are 1.1 million people employed in service industries, but we need to seek out other industries that will be in demand once kids leave school,” he said.