ALBANY – The first statewide program in the nation using an innovative school-to-career program to link students with companies in search of specific job skills is set to begin in New York.

More than 6,000 New York students are expected to join the program, which teaches high school students additional workplace skills with the help of mentors and visits to participating companies. That program will mesh with two-year college degrees tailored to companies’ needs.

IBM executive Stanley S. Litow said that once the students graduate, they will be “first in line” for jobs at firms such as IBM. He says that many of the hires will start at $35,000 to $40,000 a year in a career that will grow.

The program is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic-development initiative to increasing the number of jobs by capitalizing on existing assets and employers in every region of the state. State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. will lead an organizing session today in Albany with representatives from the 16 communities that will open new programs in 2014.

The upstate schools participating are in Lackawanna, Byron-Bergen in Genesee County, Ballston Spa, Binghamton, Troy, Hudson Falls, Syracuse, Peru, Rochester, North Rockland, Kingston, Newburgh and Gloversville. They will joined by Yonkers and Uniondale outside New York City. The Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn is already operating as a national model and was praised a week ago during a visit by President Obama. Another program is in the Chicago public schools.

“For students who have the right credentials and an associate’s degree in the right area and have the workplace skills, those kids can write their own ticket,” Litow said. “And that entry-level job isn’t the end; it’s the first in the ladder.”

Companies involved in the statewide effort include Wegmans supermarkets, Global Foundries, Cisco, GE HealthCare and Lockheed Martin.

The program minimizes costs. High schools and community colleges will continue to teach their classes, but participants will be taught higher levels in the workplace.