The 16 students in Westerly High’s new Pathways in Technology Early College, or P-TECH, program met their industry mentors for the first time during a meet-and-greet at the Westerly Higher Education and Industry Center building on Friendship Street.
Mentors are an integral part of Westerly’s P-TECH, a six-year education program focused on Advanced Manufacturing. It’s designed for students to advance through high school and college coursework.
“These are the people who will be shaping our country,” said Andy Corsini, the president and CEO of Supfina Machine Company in North Kingstown, and Sal’s mentor. “We have an obligation to help them in the right way instead of leaving them out there to sink or swim.”
Students spent the entire morning Friday with their mentors, who are from local companies, including Electric Boat, Town Dock, Toray Plastics, HTP Meds, VIB and Hi-Tech Machine and Fabrication.
School officials, who rave about P-TECH’s commitment to teaching students manufacturing, critical-thinking skills and being a part of a team, said the day was about bridging the gap between education and industry.
“It’s another part of the process of establishing our program,” Kevin Cronin, the director of P-TECH and the assistant principal at Westerly Middle, said. “They will be spending time with people who do it on a day-to-day basis.”
Cronin said other events will be planned throughout the year for students and their mentors. Officials also are building into the schedule time for students to email their mentors to keep “the communication going.”
“It’s kind of cool and weird meeting our mentors for the first time,” freshman Juliette Plunkett said. “It shows me that I’m going to be in this program, and I’m going to get where I want to be.”
David Hutchinson, an operations supervisor of a pipe crew at Electric Boat, is a mentor.
“Teaching people is something I’ve always done,” Hutchinson said. “I enjoy teaching students new skills and lifelong skills.”
P-TECH will be housed at the high school and is based on partnerships with the Community College of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA.)
In addition to a high school diploma, students who complete the program will earn an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology at no cost.
“It’s really good to have someone,” Stephen Falck, a sophomore, said. “We can ask them any questions and learn from them — not only about manufacturing and the workplace, but things like how to write a proper email and a thank-you note.”