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First Daughter Ivanka Trump Cites SCSD's P-tech at ITC as Example of Preparing Future Workforce

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

Syracuse’s P-tech school at the Institute of technology received a guest Monday that they hope will champion the program on a national level. 

First daughter and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump praised the school, local colleges, and business partners for their roles in preparing the local workforce.

Ms. Trump hosted a roundtable discussion to learn more about how the specialized high school curriculum connects students to local companies through mentorships and job shadowing, which could lead to future jobs. 

 "Sadly, there has not been enough of that in recent decades, and I think we're starting to see a rebirth in this regard, and a realignment with the priorities of education to better meet the demands of the modern and increasingly digital economy, and I think P-tech's a great example of that."

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Rep. Katko, right, chats with the three P-tech graduates prior to Mondays discussion. Left to right, William De Jesus, Lily La (back to camera), and Robert Felder. SCSD Superintendent Jaime Alicea listens in.

Ms. Trump says she’s passionate about workforce development for both students and mid to late career workers who need reskilling in the face of automation.  William DeJesus was one of three students invited to Monday’s discussion, and is among the first cohort of P-tech graduates. 

"Without P-tech, really, I don't know where I would be because it set me on a direct pathway.  Coming into middle school, I didn't know what I wanted to do.  Having the opportunity to choose mechanical technology or electrical, it gave me that option that most kids don't have."

He already has 32 credits from Onondaga Community College, and will be staying with the program this fall to finish his associate’s degree in mechanical technology.  Congressmember John Katko moderated the discussion, and says he knows firsthand how programs like this can help students on the edge.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
P-tech graduate Lily La tells the group how the program opened opportunities she otherwise never would have had, such as career coaching, internships, and college courses. She graduated high school with 32 college credits, and will attend SU next year as a second year sophomore to study biology.

"When I was a gang prosecutor, I saw so many kids in the 8th and 9th grade, who just said 'the heck with it' and dropped out.  Some of those kids could be grabbed by programs like this and have a life-changing effect on them, keeping them off the streets, giving them a job, giving them an opportunity.  You heard one thing here today...all three of those kids are first generation kids going to college."

Katko says Ivanka Trump’s visit can shed light on an important program that he can’t on his own.  The manufacturing sector perhaps stands to benefit the most from the pipeline of potential workers.  Randy Wolken is President of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, and told Ms. Trump they’re in a crisis because there aren’t enough workers.  Baby boomers are retiring as a faster rate than the jobs can be filled.

"Without workers, we can't be competitive.  What makes P-tech different, and also the CTE programs the Syracuse City School District is focused on, as well as Auburn and the other partners, is they do get businesses engaged.  Businesses need to be at the table, we need to be talking about the needs, and preparing students for these jobs."

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Panelists and invitation-only audience members wait for the arrival of Ms. Trump.

As you’d expect, the discussion was cordial and full of praise and accolades.  But principal of the ITC school Donna Formica made it clear the continued success of the program depends on local, state, and federal support.

"Unfortunately, it does come down to dollars and cents.  We can develop the greatest pathways with our partners, but it it going to require funding."

She says tuition, books, and transportation for one year of P-tech costs about $150,000 for nearly 200 students. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.