Jose Cuacuas, a 2018 graduate of Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) at the Newburgh Free Academy (NFA), has had the opportunity to have an internship, apprenticeship and now full-time job at IBM.
P-TECH at NFA partnered with SUNY Orange and IBM back in 2011. Since then, they have been able to provide NFA students with a wide range of opportunities from Cuacuas’ experience to mentorship opportunities and more.
Last week, from November 8 to 14, was National Apprenticeship Week, a celebration that “brings together business leaders, career seekers, labor, educational institutions and other critical partners to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship,” according to apprenticeship.gov.
Cuacuas is a first generation college student who just completed his apprenticeship and has expressed how helpful the opportunity was for him.
Originally, he had planned to pursue his bachelor’s degree in software engineering, but instead decided to stay with IBM and now works on the firmware engineering team.
It all started when Cuacuas decided to apply to P-TECH, something that has to be done before entering high school.
“It was a big decision,” said Cuacuas. “Going into high school, there are a bunch of different things you can do – whether it be liberal arts or other cool things your friends are doing. Joining P-TECH was a big leap forward to say hey I want to do this.”
He said his time at P-TECH helped him prepare for the real world and gave him experiences that he wouldn’t be able to get inside the classroom.
Most students have their first internship experience at some point before graduating college, but Cuacuas had the opportunity at the age of 17. He called the experience “unique, interesting and helpful.”
Once he completed P-TECH and graduated from NFA, he began his apprenticeship.
“It was similar to the internship in showing you the ropes, guiding you and assisting you in any way they can,” said Cuacuas. “It was more help with technical skills, programming and getting into real work.”
Similar to P-TECH, he found the apprenticeship so rewarding because it wasn’t “textbook learning.”
He learned skills at his apprenticeship like problem solving, time management, teamwork and collaboration.
“I realized this could be a great opportunity,” said Cuacuas. “It really opened my eyes to what else is possible without going to school and getting all that debt.”
For those who are heading towards high school, Cuacuas said “take a shot” at P-TECH, “even if you’re not interested in the technology sector.”