By Eleanor Lamb
The Idaho Pathways to Early Career High School (PTECH) Network links high school students in the state with career coaches through Skype and text messages.
PTECH is a nonprofit organization that connects juniors and seniors in high school who may not be on track to attend a four-year university with specialized trade positions that fit their interests. PTECH corresponds with Idaho companies seeking workers within the fields of aerospace and advanced manufacturing, information technology, and health care. Teachers or counselors will recommend a student for PTECH, although Gina Borud, media liaison at PTECH, said the company is working on a way to reach out to students directly. PTECH will connect these students with a one-on-one mentor through InsideTrack, a company that specializes in personalized education.
PTECH issues students laptops, through which they can take classes preparing them for certificate programs or associates’ degrees as they balance their regular high school course loads. Students can chat with their coaches over Skype or text them for advice on career paths and interview tips. Borud said that some ask how to tie ties.
“Skype is popular,” Borud said. “We still have trouble with Internet in some places. Some students still have flip phones. So Skype is a popular choice.”
In addition to linking students to InsideTrack’s tools and giving students laptops, PTECH pays for student textbooks and occasionally flies students across the state to meet with potential employers. In total, 238 students representing 17 high schools participate in the PTECH Network, which began in the fall of 2014. Most of them are still in school, either at the high school or certificate program level.
Borud said PTECH does not guarantee jobs, but they do make sure students continue to meet with their coaches throughout their post-high school education. However, three students went through an accelerated program and have already started careers at Quest Aircraft company.
Borud, who hails from the neighboring state of Oregon, said there are companies in Idaho seeking employees that many students simply do not know about, such as the Chobani factory in Twin Falls and a large number of technical jobs. PTECH has 10 industry partners and 15 supporting industries, according to its website. Borud said PTECH’s goal is to have 50 students in good jobs by next year.
“Our goal is to help kids find well-paying careers and help the Idaho economy. We’re trying to connect the dots. This is one opportunity of many in the state. It’s not for everyone, but it is one option,” Borud said. “We’re still developing the model, but things are really promising.”
This article originally appeared in MeriTalk on December 2, 2016