Post-primary pupils will study modules from third-level technology degree programmes under a ground- breaking careers initiative being piloted in three Dublin schools.
By the time they finish school, participating students will have not only their Leaving Cert, but the equivalent of a Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) qualification as well.
The programme, known as P-Tech, already operates in more than 110 schools globally, and Dublin students will be the first in Europe to experience it.
It’s a partnership between schools, higher education and industry and allows for the integration of elements of degree-level learning and work experience as a way of tackling disadvantage.
P-Tech was developed in New York in 2011 by global tech giant IBM and local educators, as a way of giving students a career pathway into the digital economy.
While students may progress to further or higher education, the P-Tech qualification, along with the workplace links a student develops, may fast-track them directly into a job.
Paul Farrell, country manager of IBM Ireland, said of the 185 US graduates of the programme to date, 23 had joined IBM.
P-Tech’s arrival in Ireland follows an approach to Government, from a group of past pupils of schools in Dublin’s north-east inner city, to consider adapting the initiative.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, a local TD, and Education Minister Joe McHugh for the launch of the programme in Larkin College, near O’Connell Street.
The pilot involves Larkin College, Marino College and St Joseph’s CBS, in the north-east inner city, with the National College of Ireland as the third-level partner. As well as IBM, initial industry partners are Cisco, Virgin Media, Irish Water and Irish Life.
P-Tech is five to six-year programme that starts with introducing first years to taster technology activities and inviting them to enrol in the programme in second year.
Those who enrol will do new junior cycle short courses, such as coding or robotics, and will visit industry and third-level colleges. Every pupil will be assigned a mentor.
Third-level modules start in transition year and engagement with industry will include paid summer internships in partner companies.