Dallas ISD has a plan to create the college-educated STEM workforce Dallas lacks | Commentary

The latest reports showing an improved economy, rising wages and low unemployment represent good news. A closer look, however, reveals that the U.S. still faces a skills crisis that could endanger economic growth.

Nearly 99 percent of U.S. jobs created since the recession have gone to workers with at least some college or post-secondary education or training. Meanwhile, nearly 7 million jobs (with stagnant wages) requiring only a high school diploma disappeared. However, of U.S. students, only 20 percent complete community college degrees in three years, with an even lower completion rate for low-income youth. Clearly, a strong future for our nation requires better preparing students for college and these new careers.

Here in North Texas there is a growing gap between jobs and the skilled workers to fill them. In Dallas, 960,000 middle-skill jobs are available, against the backdrop of a high poverty rate, according to a 2015 JPMorgan Chase report.

There is a bright spot, though, and it’s called P-TECH (Pathways to Technology Early College High School). It’s a new six-year career and technical education model pioneered by IBM and serving 20,000 U.S. students at 90 schools in seven U.S. states, Australia and Morocco. Created through robust public-private partnerships, P-TECH enables students to spend six years or fewer earning both their high school diplomas and no-cost associate degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Along the way, they acquire the skills required for ongoing education or entry-level careers. Students take integrated high school and college coursework and participate in workplace experiences.