IBM Leadership

How Private-Public Partnerships Can Lead Through Innovation

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For the second consecutive time, FORTUNE magazine has named IBM as the #1 Global Company for Leaders. As part of our series on IBM Leadership, Rod Adkins, Senior Vice President of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group, comments on how partnerships between the private and public sectors can help fill the need for tomorrow’s science and technology leaders.

Growing the global economy will require leadership and innovation on many fronts.  In the knowledge economy, there is plenty of evidence that those who have strong math and science skills will drive innovation for future generations. We need to recognize the need to invest in education for the long term.

In the United States, we need innovators with backgrounds in math and science to spur growth and generate new jobs. However, the facts in this area of education are alarming.

  • According to the National Science Foundation, the percentage of U.S.students studying math, science, and engineering has decreased from 21 percent in the 1980s to approximately 16 percent today.
  • The most recent Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development test scores show that the U.S. was below the average score in math and only at the average in science.
  • The situation is even more dire for minority students, who are pursuing pure science and engineering degrees to an even lesser degree. Currently fewer than 13 percent of the more than 70,000 U.S. engineering bachelor’s degrees are awarded to minorities, according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering.

In order for companies like IBM, and the U.S. as a whole, to stay competitive in a global economy, both business leaders and policy makers must work to fix this trend. Developing a new generation of innovators requires greater private-public partnerships that encourage more students to specialize in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Rod Adkins and Principal Rashid Davis at P-TECH

Here in New York, the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a new grades 9-14 school that opened in September. The school is a collaboration among the New York City Department of Education, The City University of New York, the New York College of Technology and IBM and is designed to prepare students to fill entry-level careers in technology fields. Such pro-active intervention helps increase the number of minorities who can fill leadership roles in the technology industry. I’ve had the privilege of mentoring P-TECH’s principal, Rashid Davis, and have seen first-hand the excitement and hope that he and the school have inspired in the new students.

And in Chicago, a grant from IBM is helping to raise the city’s high school and community college graduation rates and better prepare graduates to enter the 21st century workforce. IBM is also dispatching a team of technology consultants to Chicago for three-months — the result of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The grant will help Chicago prepare a business plan to personalize education for students, allowing them to build the necessary skills to put them at the front of the line for quality, high-paying jobs upon graduation. The team will work with educators and city leaders to evaluate ways Chicago can better align its education system with the needs of knowledge workers in the private sector.

These are just some examples of how private-public partnerships can help put students on track to pursue STEM careers. Just as successful companies invest in R&D to produce future innovations, so too must all levels of society invest in STEM education to produce the innovators of tomorrow.

BOTTOM LINE: Just as companies invest in R&D, society must invest in STEM education. #ibmleaders

More from Rod Adkins:

Calling for Innovators: Our Students Must Learn to Create New Technologies, Not Just Enjoy Them

Read more about IBM Leadership:

Why IBM Is the Best Company for Leaders by Randy MacDonald, Senior Vice President, Human Resources

A Global View of Leadership Development by StanleyS. Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Responsibility and President, IBM International Foundation

Entrepreneurship Takes Homework, Not Hubris, by Sharon Nunes, Vice President, Government Industry Strategy & Solutions

A New Model to Cultivate Global Leaders by Tony Mwai, Country General Manager, East Africa

Leadership Must Evolve in an Interconnected World by Bridget van Kralingen, General Manager, North America

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