New Collar Jobs

Four skills we should teach our students for the tech jobs of the future

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Today we’re seeing a transformational shift in society. Driven by innovations like AI, cloud computing, blockchain and data analytics, industries from cybersecurity to healthcare to agriculture are being revolutionized. These innovations are creating new jobs but also changing existing ones—and require new skills that our workforce must be equipped with. 

Today, over half a million open technology jobs exist in America, but businesses can’t find the workers with the education and skills to fill them. These jobs aren’t just in California or New York. They’re in West Virginia, Louisiana, Texas and many states across our nation.

But how do we get more Americans ready for these jobs? And what are the specific skills we should be equipping our workforce with to fill the jobs open today and the ones that will be created tomorrow?

At IBM, we’re looking for people with a number of in-demand skills, particularly as we grow and expand innovative career opportunities in cloud computing, AI and cybersecurity. These are the kinds of skills education institutions — high schools to community colleges and universities — should be increasingly focused on to prepare their students for 21st century opportunities.

  1. Cloud engineering and network development: Today 80 percent of the world’s data is not searchable. It resides within businesses, and increasingly organizations are turning to the cloud to house, protect, and tap into the power of that data. Workers equipped with the skills to develop applications for the cloud and those with the IT skills needed to monitor the health, security, and capacity of the cloud infrastructure will grow in demand as this trend continues. And the best part? Many of these skills can be built through non-traditional means such as industry certifications and community college degrees, and self-driven learning.
  2. Data science & analytics: The silver thread that runs through today’s rapidly growing technology fields is data. These technologies are built on their abilities to internalize massive amounts of structured and unstructured data and provide insights, results, and recommendations. Workers will increasingly need to recognize when a data set is incomplete, be able to recognize false positives, and use their own critical thinking and technical skills to identify when to act on a recommendation versus when not to.
  3. Cyber threat detection: No organization—in either the public or private sector—can escape the threat of cyber crime, which is why cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing fields today. By 2021, it is estimated that there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs—to help close this gap, we should put a premium on education focused on network monitoring and cyber threat detection courses. These provide the technical skills to find and mitigate emerging threats, but also the soft skills such as judgment and creativity to recognize when to act on a threat and stay ahead of a constantly evolving challenge.
  4. Design for digital experiences: As organizations increasingly look at how they drive business growth through innovation, and with a society increasingly reliant on mobile technology, the ability to create an exceptional user experience will continue to be in high demand. Those who can develop systems in a way that creates a seamless experience for the user are increasingly skills we look for across our cloud, AI, and blockchain businesses.

This morning, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty spoke with America’s governors on how they can have a direct impact on preparing their communities for these types of jobs. One powerful solution: a new school model called P-TECH.

Since its launch just over six years ago, P-TECH has expanded to 90 schools in seven states.

P-TECH is public education reform model pioneered by IBM in 2011. Through P-TECH, high schools, community colleges and local businesses partner to provide students, primarily from underserved backgrounds, with a STEM-focused education, enabling them to graduate with a high school diploma, a cost-free associate’s degree, and “first in line” job interview opportunities with their industry partners.  The curriculum is designed based on a Skills Map, which industry partners create detailing the skills required for future jobs.  Students’ education is enriched by a range of workplace experiences designed to ensure students graduate career-ready, including mentoring with industry professionals and paid internships.

P-TECH students in Chicago earned their associate degrees in technology from Daley College.

Since its launch just over six years ago, P-TECH has expanded to 90 schools in seven states, with more than 400 industry partners in IT, healthcare and advanced manufacturing — all of whom understand the import of linking education and workforce development.  P-TECH schools are preparing students with many of the skills I discussed above, along with other professional skills — such as problem solving, communication and flexibility, that are critical to employers.  For example, in Baltimore, Maryland, and Newburgh, NY, P-TECH is equipping students with the cybersecurity skills needed to bridge the skills gap in these states’ fastest growing fields. And just last week, we announced that 20 new schools were added to the P-TECH network in Texas.

The program is embraced by leaders across the political spectrum, because they see its power in strengthening the workforce and its impact on the life trajectories of young people—particularly in underserved communities. For example, in Brooklyn, New York, the first cohort of P-TECH students graduated at a rate four times the national average for on-time community college graduation, with some students accelerating through the model in as little as four years.  This cohort also had zero dropouts, and not one student had to take a remedial course.

The reason why we’ve reached out to governors is because their leadership is critical in bringing these programs to fruition. Governors can bring together secondary schools, higher education, and industry to get the new model going and enable the policy and funding that give students a cost-free education.  IBM is committed to working with Governors to make the P-TECH model available to more and more students, by providing thought leadership and technical assistance, and where we have employees, we commit to serving as an industry partner for any governor who wants to bring the model to their states.

The bottom line: We’re going through a transformational time. But P-TECH is a transformational model. If we all work together — governors and industry alike — we can help address America’s skills gap and prepare our workforce for the jobs of today, and those that will be created tomorrow.

-Jen Crozier, Vice President, IBM Corporate Citizenship

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