As STEM School Highlands Ranch wraps up 2020, school leaders are developing the plans for the next phase of the P-TECH program at STEM. P-TECH is a program designed for career pathways to technology and STEM engineering teacher Mike Shallenberger says the program will make a big impact for students, helping to create opportunities as they pursue both college, and their careers in technology.
“We’ve been working on our P-TECH program for a few years,” he says. “P-TECH is a partnership between a K-12 school (STEM), business and industry. Kind of our founding partnership is with Panther Industries, and then a higher education institution, which in this case is Arapahoe Community College.”
Shallenberger says his team has spent years developing the Mechatronics P-TECH pathway, which has to do with automation, robotics, electronics, fluid power, motors and controls, and pretty much any device that can be programmed. And, he says that caters to a range of high-paying employers and industries.
“Everything from medical, biomedical stuff, respirators, dialysis machines, surgery equipment to manufacturing, conveyors, warehouse management, material handling, packaging and labeling,” he pointed out.
Students earn their associate degree for free. “…it can actually go past 12th grade,” says Shallenberger. “So a student doesn’t have to fit all of their college classes into 9th through 12th. It will actually go up through 14th if a student chooses.”
Shallenberger added that it’s a predefined pathway, with a focus on an industry that has high-paying jobs, is a growing field, technology focused, and can provide lucrative and meaningful careers.
The P-TECH program will be housed in the newly-purchase building next door to free up space inside the building, and to allow students in grades 13 and 14 to have their own learning environment.
“Our school is growing,” says Shallenberger. “The Mechatronics program is going to take room. We’re going to have robotics and equipment that takes up a bigger footprint. We have outgrown the space that we’ve been in. So we need more space to grow these programs.”
In addition to identifying the right space for P-TECH, Shallenberger says a lot of work has also gone into identifying the right pathways for the students who will be involved in the program.
“We’re going to be helping students learn about careers that are going to be growing in the 21st century and will be highly needed for years to come.” He said.
Check out Shallenberger’s interview below: