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P-TECH grant will fund Herkimer BOCES program to connect
students to free associate's degrees, advanced manufacturing jobs

Nov. 13, 2014

HERKIMER – If graduating with a free associate’s degree in quality assurance isn’t enough, a new program now being developed at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES will also automatically put graduates first in line for local jobs in advanced manufacturing.

A state grant of about $2.8 million over seven years will allow Herkimer BOCES and its partners to develop the program this year to start with students who will be in ninth grade in fall 2015. A new cohort of about 20-25 ninth-graders will be added each year.

“Our BOCES has been laser-focused on preparing young people for good-paying jobs within our community,” Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua said. “P-TECH is a tremendous opportunity for a large group of local students, but also represents one more facet of what is becoming a sea change in how we approach secondary education. This grant allows us to be ahead of the curve rather than trying to play catch-up; a unique position for us and a testament to a lot of hard work from our component schools, Herkimer College and industry partners.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday, Nov. 12, the winners of the New York State Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) partnerships competitive grant process – including the Herkimer BOCES partnership.

The Herkimer BOCES partnership includes its component districts, Herkimer College, Mohawk Valley EDGE, Mohawk Valley Applied Technology Corp. and King + King Architects. The Herkimer BOCES component districts are Central Valley, Dolgeville, Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Little Falls, Mount Markham, Owen D. Young, Poland, Richfield Springs and West Canada Valley.

The program

The goal is for students to complete the P-TECH program at Herkimer BOCES in five to six years – largely depending on the individual students – and graduate with an associate’s degree in quality assurance from Herkimer College.

That means the students would be at BOCES for the full school day throughout high school and after their typical high-school years. In the later part of the program, through the partnership with Herkimer College, students would be taking college courses from college professors, completing their college degree.

Advanced manufacturing companies and related businesses who agree to be part of the partnership will make classroom visits, host fieldtrips, establish mentorship programs, offer internships and put graduates of the program at the beginning of the line for any openings they have in advanced manufacturing.

Students’ courses will tie into the industry throughout the program, and they will learn advanced manufacturing techniques.

The expectation is that students who complete the program will gain local jobs in advanced manufacturing and also be prepared for promotions to quality assurance positions, said James Picolla, the Herkimer BOCES assistant superintendent for administration.

“It will be unlike anything else offered in the region right now,” Picolla said.

The profession

In advanced manufacturing, quality assurance workers write the procedures for the line-workers to use to ensure the product comes out correct. Similar to how a bank teller counts money in a certain way and puts the cash in a drawer in a specific way, there are hundreds of procedures to follow when putting together a circuit board, Picolla said.

“Quality assurance develops and refines those procedures,” he said.

By learning both the advanced manufacturing techniques and quality assurance skills and participating in internships that cover both, program participants will be knowledgeable about the manufacturing work when they write the procedures during quality assurance and thus be more qualified for potential promotions, Picolla said.

Quality assurance cuts across all advanced manufacturing processes and disciplines – requiring technical, critical-thinking skill as well as a firm understanding of statistics and other math disciplines, said Paul MacEnroe, president of the Mohawk Valley Applied Technology Corp.

“These are the people who make sure all of the machines and processes are working at their optimal level and producing the products to the standards the customer expects,” MacEnroe said.

The culture

The P-TECH program targets students who are at risk of not completing high school or not successfully completing college. These students are fully capable of success. They, however, have been unable to overcome cultural or social barriers, such as being a first generation college student or not being able to afford college, Picolla said.

Mentorships and tutoring will be part of the program from the start to help students overcome those challenges, he said.

There also will be high expectations, students will be held accountable and there will be a culture of “success is our only option,” Picolla said.

“It will be a college-ready environment from day one,” he said.

Students will still take all the standard high-school courses and Regents tests while going through the program and will graduate with a Regents diploma. Teachers will focus each course through the lens of the advanced manufacturing career path.

When looking this school year for students to fill the 20-25 slots available for fall 2015, Herkimer BOCES officials will be talking with current eighth-graders and their parents about the opportunity.

“The carrot of a free college education is a pretty strong carrot for a lot of people, I would imagine, as well as the carrot of being first in line for a really good-paying job,” Picolla said.

The preparation

This school year is the first of the seven years of the P-TECH grant and is considered the planning year. Between now and September 2015, Herkimer BOCES and its partners will be developing the program including hiring teachers and a principal, developing curriculum and establishing enrollment.

“Basically to build the school – everything except the brick and mortar – in a lot of ways,” Picolla said.
Herkimer BOCES will have help.

Herkimer College will be involved with the curriculum development, staff training and likely instructional delivery in the later stages of the program.

“We look forward to further collaboration with our partners on this innovative program,” said Michael Oriolo, dean of academic affairs at Herkimer College. “Partnerships such as this are important as they create pathways that ensure our students are prepared for future job opportunities.”

Mohawk Valley EDGE will be assisting with the curriculum as well and reaching out to local advanced manufacturing businesses to get them on board for the program – such as for the classroom visits, fieldtrips, mentorships and internships.

Some local businesses have already committed to join the Herkimer BOCES partnership as it gets established, and Mohawk Valley EDGE will continue to make contacts with businesses in Herkimer and Oneida counties, said Tim Fitzgerald, project manager at Mohawk Valley EDGE.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Fitzgerald said.

Mohawk Valley Applied Technology Corp. will also be assisting in curriculum development and interfacing with local manufacturing companies.

“The students in this program will form the backbone of the renaissance in the region’s manufacturing companies as they bring these much-needed skills into the workplace,” MacEnroe said.

King + King Architects also joined the partnership after a call from Central Valley Assistant Superintendent Cindy Stocker, who helped work on the grant application, to show support for the program and potentially provide coaching and mentorships, said Jim King, partner at King + King Architects.

“I think really the reason we’re involved is to try to change the way education is delivered,” King said. “Obviously, we’re not educators, but we can bring real-world experience to education.”

The future

Herkimer Central School District is the financial lead for the grant, so the district will be managing the grant funds and the budget process for the seven years of the grant. In order to do that, the district will be increasing its 0.6 full-time equivalent business official to 0.8 FTE and adding a part-time secretary, Herkimer Superintendent Robert Miller said. Those cost increases will be fully covered by the grant, he said.

The grant application plan includes a transition into the program being eventually fully funded through school district tuition the way other BOCES programs are. Through the seven years of the grant funding, that transition will be taking place in order to sustain the program afterward and make it affordable for the school districts, Picolla and Miller said.

“I think it’s a really terrific opportunity,” Miller said. “It’s going to present an opportunity we just couldn’t provide without the grant for students to find careers in manufacturing.”

Miller also said the relationships among school districts, Herkimer BOCES, colleges and businesses that will be formed through the P-TECH program are very important.

“I think they’re going to be critical in the way education has to transition to create opportunities for kids to find careers in the 21st Century,” Miller said.

The connections among involved businesses and Herkimer BOCES will be more direct as the program moves forward with mentorships, day placements and internships added through the years, Fitzgerald said.

“It’s really phased in over the life of the program,” he said.

Businesses who commit to the program will only be able to hire to their capacity, but they will be agreeing to give first consideration for job openings to graduates of the program, Fitzgerald said.

“They’re already looped in with the farm system so to speak,” he said. “This is really a great tool for career readiness for the students involved, and it will build a strong pipeline of talent for the employers that are participating as well.”

For the governor’s announcement of the P-TECH grants, go to this link:

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