IBM Leadership

IBM Supports UN Goals to Close the Global Skills Gap

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As the United Nations General Assembly wrapped up its 72nd Regular Session, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel with several other international corporate representatives to discuss the unique role of global business in advancing the United Nations’ 2017 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While these goals, ranging from ending poverty to protecting our planet, were developed by governments, our panel brought home the fact that governments alone cannot achieve them. Partnerships with the business community are essential. That is why several years ago, IBM became a founding member of IMPACT 2030, a global, private sector-led collaboration dedicated to mobilizing corporate volunteers in service to advance the achievement of the SDGs.

With operations in more than 170 countries, IBM has long embraced its role as a global citizen, dedicated to improving the lives of our employees, customers, and the communities where we live and work – from Argentina to Zimbabwe. In recent years, our philanthropic work has centered on three pillars: commitment to education and skills, global health, and resilient communities.

Much of the panel discussion focused on the global challenge of expanding educational opportunities and closing the skills gap, which is fundamental to achieving the UN SDGs. The International Labour Organization estimates there are 71 million unemployed youth worldwide. At the same time, in a 2016 global survey by Manpower, 40 percent of employers said that they experienced difficulties finding people with the right expertise. In the United States, there are more than half-a-million open technology jobs, but the country is only producing 50,000 computer science graduates each year. Businesses often cannot find enough candidates with the right skills to meet their needs.

By forging public-private collaborations, IBM seeks to directly address the skills gap.
P-TECH, designed by IBM, are innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that connect school to college to career. Within six-years, students graduate with their high school diplomas, no-cost associate degrees in a STEM discipline, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step easily into high demand jobs. P-TECH is now serving tens of thousands of students in the U.S., Australia and Morocco, with more than 300 companies partnering with P-TECH schools. P-TECH will expand to 100 schools across the globe by 2018.

This new approach to education better prepares young people for college and provides new pathways to “New Collar” careers – fast growing industries where what matters most is having in-demand technology skills.

The term, New Collar, first came about in IBM because of our recognition that the talent our company needs to compete, now and in the future, is increasingly coming from non-traditional sources. Our new recruits cannot be defined as traditional blue-collar or white-collar workers. They are coming from a lot of different places and backgrounds. As a company, we are actively looking for people with the right skills for fields like cloud computing, AI, design and cyber security, and many of these jobs don’t necessarily require a traditional 4-year college degree.

For example, in Europe, IBM is proud to be a partner in Pact for Youth, a coalition of business and European leaders to address high youth unemployment and to help prepare young people for quality jobs and 100,000 apprenticeships in STEM industries.

In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, IBM has also made a major investment in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to equip as many as 25 million African youths with sought after IT skills over the next five years.

In addition, IBM is a lead partner in the development of India’s first two-year Advanced Diploma in IT, Networking & Cloud. When the program launches next month, the country’s youth will have a new pathway to much needed skills and high demand jobs.

And together with the non-profit, Corporate America Supports You, IBM is providing software training and job placement assistance for veterans in the U.S., UK, and Canada.

As a technology company with a 106-year history, we see first-hand the power of cross-sector collaborations with government leaders, NGOs, and institutions to help address global challenges that no single entity can manage alone. To pave the way for future generations and in the spirit of the United Nations, we continue to forge partnerships with communities around the world, allied in purpose and focused on results.

Jennifer Ryan Crozier is President of the IBM International Foundation and Vice President of IBM Corporate Citizenship. A version of this article first appeared on the Business Call to Action Resources blog.

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