An Indigenous school in southwestern Ontario has partnered with IBM Canada to offer high school students a tuition-free path to a college diploma in a technology field.
Six Nations Polytechnic’s president, Rebecca Jamieson, said the program will help students participate in industry-related internships and prepare them for a career in the tech sector.
“It’ll develop a sense of confidence in terms of connecting with a private sector, which is not always happening at the high school level,” she said Friday. “Already, our students have made significant connections with senior staff.”
The program, called P-TECH, starts at the Grade 9 level and is completed in six years when the students obtain a college diploma. This school year, 125 students have enrolled in the program in Brantford, Ont.
Six Nations Polytechnic has both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and features a strong component of learning about First Nations languages and cultures.
“For the Indigenous students, the fact that it’s a culturally based learning environment where their language is reinforced and their cultural practices are reinforced, that makes a big difference for them,” said Jamieson.
Ayman Antoun, president of IBM Canada, said the company is already running the P-TECH program in over 200 schools across 18 countries, and about a third of the students enrolled have completed it in just four years.
Antoun said the program also aims to help communities that face economic or circumstantial disadvantages.
“This gives them a really good way to make sure that they have a good path to a successful career.”
He said they chose to partner with Six Nations Polytechnic because the school was innovative in terms of creating programs to support students in their local community.
Jamieson said the school had been running their own 4-6 year program that helped Indigenous students bridge the gap between high school and college.
“Our students were having difficulty in graduating high school, there’s quite an education attainment gap in high school,” she said.
IBM Canada, which also runs their P-TECH program in three other Canadian schools, said that many of their graduates end up working with the company.
That’s partially because every student gets to have a job interview with IBM after they graduate.
“This is the first time we’ve had a private-sector partner so engaged,” said Jamieson. “It’s been very beneficial.”