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The Power of Partnerships: Creating Inclusive Educational Opportunities

Levelling the higher ed playing field means improving access to education for traditionally underserved communities. A good way of doing so is by partnering with local and regional like-minded organizations and companies who can help get your students trained and hired.

The desire to succeed, grow and provide seems to be at every individual’s core when developing into adulthood.

But the path to achievement is different for everyone, taking twists and turns, colliding with obstacles and detours, coming to a grinding halt and even completely restarting. For a few, the path is perfectly straight and clearly defined. For all of us, the passage involves education, whether in the traditional, hallowed halls of academia, on-the-job experience, or even shared by streetwise peers. 

Prior academic experience or socioeconomic background should not be obstacles to pursuing higher and specialized education. I share this belief with each employee at Pittsburgh Technical College (PTC). In fact, it is our mission “to provide a diverse student body with an immersive, academic, career-ready education that supports personal and professional growth while meeting the ever-evolving needs of business, industry and our global community.”  

When I joined PTC as president and CEO in 2019, I knew it was important and necessary to immediately establish three key priorities to define the style and purpose with which I planned to lead the college: positioning PTC as an educator of choice, developing a pipeline to fill middle-skills jobs and fuel economic development at the regional, national and international levels. These three priorities distinguish PTC on the higher education landscape.   

I also recognized that as a newly established non-profit institution, it was time for PTC to expand its horizons, and the ideal way to do so was by forming strategic partnerships. As a result, I have helped lead the college in joining with professional organizations and sharing with employers and influencers in the fields in which PTC trains its students. PTC is now opening its doors to a broader population, particularly recognizing those in underserved communities who have historically met with barriers when choosing to break from the labels that society has placed upon them.  

Having grown up in the Baltimore, MD., area, serving several of the region’s academic institutions, I naturally have an affinity for the region and have defined numerous valuable connections. One such relationship has resulted in PTC’s most recent partnership with the Power52 Foundation, led by my colleague, Cherie Brooks. 

Power52 Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation dedicated to providing employment training for at-risk and underserved individuals in the city of Baltimore and surrounding counties to prepare them for careers in the solar industry. The partnership with PTC provides Power52 students with an opportunity to transfer credits and enroll in one of the technology-focused programs in PTC’s School of Trades Technology with a certificate in electrician technology or in the School of Energy and Electronics Technology with an Associate of Science in Smart Building Technology and, upon completion, earn a PTC certificate or degree. 

The partnership between PTC and Power52 Foundation perfectly complements both institutional missions by expanding educational opportunities to a wider population seeking growth in an emerging, high-demand profession in the region. It also ties directly to PTC’s first strategic direction of the five-year plan that I piloted with the college: Expanding Access. This strategy involves increasing awareness, establishing comprehensive enrollment management systems and outreach and promoting access to specialized populations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The Power52 Foundation’s accredited curriculum in clean energy can now be expanded upon with a college-level certificate or degree further supporting its mission to “break the cycle of poverty, unemployment, under employment and incarceration in our urban communities across the nation through economic empowerment and clean energy access.”

It is my expectation that this valued partnership will allow Power52 graduates who also become PTC graduates to increase their employment prospects exponentially. PTC will provide Power52 students with our expertise in technology with our state-of-the-science, 15,392 sq. ft Energy Tech Center. Additionally, Power52 students will have the opportunity to utilize PTC’s workforce development resources and community partnerships throughout the region via student mentorships, job shadowing, field trip experiences and internships to prepare for a future in their field of study. We will provide the Power52 graduates, like all of our students, with a clearly defined pathway to fill the middle-skills careers that will fuel economic development and rebuild not only our Commonwealth, but neighboring regions as well. 

Cherie Brooks, visionary co-founder, president & CEO of Power52 Foundation, has said, “This transfer articulation agreement creates an awesome opportunity for Power52 grads in pursuit of higher education. The opportunity for our graduates to have their credentials with Power52 transfer to college credits at Pittsburgh Technical College not only incentivizes students, but it expands opportunity, builds excellence and provides access to the portfolio of learning and growth opportunities at Power52.” 

In addition to partnering with Mrs. Brooks, I am excited to work with and welcome co-founder and NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis to the PTC Family. Mr. Lewis expressed his excitement about the collaboration: “I am truly grateful for this new journey together with PTC to tackle so many issues in our country when it comes to low-income communities. Every life we help redirect proves to make our country a better place, and now our graduates have another arm to lean on to further their individual greatness.”

The career services department at Pittsburgh Technical College assists PTC graduates with internship and job placement in their chosen fields at a historical placement rate of 95% or greater. It is essential to recognize that this unlimited, lifetime placement service will be available to Power52 graduates who complete their extended training with PTC. Each member of the career services team is eager to develop relationships with the companies in the Baltimore region that will not only benefit Power52 graduates who choose to return to the city but also other PTC graduates who originate from the area or are looking to relocate. 

I am proud to say that Pittsburgh Technical College is now setting the standard for the future of higher education and is committed to excellence and accountability while continuing to blur the lines between traditional technical training and college education. By investing in our students, employees and community partnerships, we will help to build an innovative, inclusive, empowered workforce that will make a local, regional and national impact originating from our small but mighty college in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

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