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Professor Gina Quin, Dr Leo Casey

P-TECH - an Irish model to address chronic under participation in higher education and decent employment

Ireland has the highest participation across Europe of 18-13 year olds in higher education . 56% of school-leavers progress to a 3rd level College of University. However, participation is not evenly spread across the population; while c. 99% of children of middle class, professional households attend a higher education institute, in areas of economic deprivation this participation level drops as low as 17% (IRL Census data). National College of Ireland (NCI) is built on a mission of access, delivering degree and postgraduate programmes that maximise access for under-represented groups to higher education, and is geographically positioned beside one of the most disadvantaged inner-city areas in Ireland within Ireland's International Financial Services District. With a long history of working with nearby schools and of employer engagement in NCI's programmes in both Business and Computer disciplines, NCI has worked with schools serving disadvantaged populations, with employers and with Government to deliver an innovative learning model, based on the US P-TECH. programme. P-TECH is an innovative model of education-industry collaboration that was originally developed by IBM and local educators to build technology skills within dedicated schools. In Ireland, the model has been adapted within a partnership collaboration across HE, schools, government and industry partners (currently IBM, CISCO, Virgin Media, Irish Life and Irish Water). Notably, P-TECH in Ireland is delivered within the traditional schools system and runs as an additional programme alongside the full academic programme for six years, leading to graduation from school at age c.18. The National College of Ireland (NCI) is the third level academic partner for this programme, with the responsibility of designing, developing and supporting the delivery of a Higher level Certificate in P-TECH programme. The programme comprises two modules, Skills for Business & Career, and Skills for a Digital World, which introduce students to digital skills, business knowledge, 21st Century skills as well as tools for their personal development. On completion of the programme, students gain a 10 ECTs Higher Education (HE) award as an additional qualification to their traditional school qualification. The programme’s main aims are: - To introduce students to digital, business and career-related skills. - To provide exposure to new learning opportunities and alternative assessments. - To embed important personal development opportunities to help students manage their learning, future career choices and ongoing personal development more effectively. - To address the network deficit of this population of School leavers by providing industry engagement and internships that open individual minds to the opportunities for careers in the Tech industry - To offer students an additional award (a NFQ Level 6 qualification) that will be recognised by future employers should students wish to enter the workplace, and by educational institutions should they wish to continue education. This paper will outline the details of the P-TECH programme and the role of NCI as the third level education partner. It will be an opportunity to learn more about an innovative initiative that aims to better prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for careers and self-fulfillment, through a sustainable and inclusive programme designed to bring justice and reconciliation to those who are not primed to seek development through higher education.