Underscoring IBM’s commitment to education and skills

By | 2 minute read | March 18, 2021

African American woman at whiteboard

When I joined IBM three months ago, I noticed right away how social purpose is woven throughout the company. It’s not an afterthought, it is central to how the company operates. IBM’s approach is quite simple: It applies its talent and technology in pursuit of solving some of the most complex societal challenges, on a global scale.

One of the greatest challenges facing society today is economic inequality. The pandemic and the growing role of technology in all industries has created employment uncertainty for aspiring and current professionals, particularly among underserved populations. For example, though Hispanics are  growing in population and economic impact in the United States, 33.7% of Hispanics between 18 and 19 years old are unemployed and less than 4% of them hold science and engineering positions – despite there being over half a million technology jobs available in the United States. Unfortunately, this pattern of poor representation and lack of opportunity repeats itself in the Black community and low-income communities nationwide.

Society can do better. At IBM, one of the areas we are doubling down on is education and skills. We’re working to further expand our signature P-TECH program, which is an innovative educational model for grades 9-14.

P-TECH enables students from underserved backgrounds to earn a high school diploma and a no-cost associate degree in a STEM field. P-TECH students receive mentorship and professional development training, and are eligible for paid internships with an industry partner. We are very proud of the commitment IBM made to provide paid internships to 1,000 P-TECH students by the end of this year.

Since its inception in 2011, the P-TECH network has scaled to more than 240 schools in 28 countries. In the United States, it has been launched in 11 states. More than 600 industry partners including American Airlines, Global Foundries and Volkswagen are now participating in the program, reaching approximately 150,000 students in the pipeline.

Last year, we expanded digitally with the launch of Open P-TECH, which is a free online learning platform offering professional and technical skills education to students (starting at 13 years old) and their teachers.

Our focus across all of our work is to reach marginalized populations that have difficulty launching their STEM careers. Our goal is to increase employability and to also increase interest and exposure to STEM careers.

The latest endeavor in this arena is the launch of SkillsBuild. SkillsBuild is a free and online career readiness and learning program that empowers adult job seekers and entrepreneurs with professional workplace and technical skills for just about any industry.

The SkillsBuild program was piloted in other countries but just launched in the United States, providing job seekers with a wide portfolio of courses and online credentials in English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish (with Portuguese to be added later this year). Learners can conduct self-assessments to identify the learning options that fit their skills. There are several technical learning options around core IBM technologies such as cloud computing,  cybersecurity, blockchain, and more. What’s great about this platform is that learners can also take courses to improve their collaboration, presentation, time management, problem solving, and critical thinking – and even mindfulness – skills.

Anyone can access the platform. We are also partnering with non-profit organizations globally who can provide a deeper engagement and more support on the ground, with job placement assistance, particularly for marginalized and vulnerable populations.

Through these initiatives, IBM is doing our part to open up new opportunity and create new educational pathways for underserved communities. My hope is that new skills will lead to new opportunity and enhanced possibility for our communities and for society at large.