Share this page

Linked In URL

Education and skills form the basis of any economy. They enable social movement and can make the difference between poverty and prosperity. At IBM, we call upon our global expertise to outthink the world’s toughest challenges to education, economic development and the prosperity they generate.

To address the growing skills gap, IBM has created an innovative grade 9 to 14 schools model that is influencing national and global actions to create public-private partnerships with the power to transform economies. Designed by IBM, the program enables students to navigate a clear pathway from school to college and career. We also are developing the means for cognitive computing to help teachers improve their teaching, which is connected directly to higher student achievement. In 2015, IBM pioneered a training, certification and job placement program to help military veterans repurpose their expertise and enter the civilian workforce. And our program that facilitates access to large companies’ supply chain spending by small businesses helps them grow and create new jobs.

Shaping the future of American education

At its highest point since World War II, youth unemployment in the United States is at crisis levels — with conditions particularly dire for children of color from low-income families. Among 24-year-olds from low-income backgrounds, fewer than one in 10 hold a college degree. College completion rates across the board are dismally low, despite huge amounts of student, family and taxpayer money spent on remediation. At the same time, an increasing number of today’s better jobs require at least a two-year postsecondary degree and work readiness skills. In a tragic disconnect, middle-class jobs requiring postsecondary preparation are on the rise as college completion rates, and the number of job candidates with workplace-ready skills, remain far too low. (See Harvard University’s Pathways to Prosperity study for more on the skills gap.) To address this challenge head-on, IBM created and opened the first P-TECH school in 2011 in Brooklyn, New York. The vision was to graduate young people from an integrated grades 9 to 14 program within six years, with both their high school diploma and Associate in Applied Science degree — ready to meet the challenges of college and career. In June 2015, P-TECH’s first six graduates finished their “six-year” program two full years ahead of schedule. By June 2016, more than three dozen P-TECH students had finished their degrees either one or two years ahead of schedule.

The world is becoming increasingly competitive for jobs, and allowing our kids to have a little bit of a head start while they are still in high school to be able to come out with an associate degree…is a tremendous advantage.

— John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado

All of P-TECH’s graduates were offered positions with IBM. Kiambu Gall, Gabriel Rosa and Radcliffe Sadler joined the company in entry-level professional jobs, while Cletus Andoh, Rahat Mahmud and Michelle Nguyen matriculated at four-year colleges and universities. In December 2015, five more students graduated from P-TECH early. Three are working at IBM while completing their four-year degrees, and two will be attending a four-year college or university on scholarship.

The innovative P-TECH program was designed to work in any community. Since 2011, P-TECH has grown to 40 schools across three U.S. states, plus two schools in Australia. IBM is partnering directly with four of these schools, and more than 100 other businesses are replicating the IBM P-TECH model in schools focused on preparing graduates for careers in advanced manufacturing, healthcare and IT. A total of 60 schools across six U.S. states will be open by September 2016. Each school is a tri-sector partnership among a school district, a higher-education institution and a participating company that helps direct the school’s curriculum to prepare graduates for where the jobs will be. These companies also provide paid internships and one-on-one mentoring for each student. Each school is open admissions (no testing), and most serve young people from historically underrepresented and underprivileged groups. P-TECH is changing the odds for the next generation.

By fall 2016, the P-TECH model will have expanded to 60 schools in six U.S. states and Australia. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Out of P-TECH’s first two cohorts of approximately 100 students each, 26 percent of Cohort 1 will have graduated by this June — earning both their high school and college degrees anywhere from one to two years ahead of schedule.
  • Meanwhile, 11 percent of Cohort 2 will complete their “six-year” program in only four years.
  • P-TECH Cohort 1 is on track to exceed a 60 percent community college degree completion rate — a degree completion rate that is 50 percent above the U.S. national average.
  • P-TECH students’ grades far exceed expectations. High-school students from the inaugural school in Brooklyn, New York, earned grades of A, B or C in 86 percent of their fall 2015 college courses. They received failing grades in only 3 percent of their college courses.

Helping teachers teach and students learn

The first letter of “STEM” stands for “science,” yet far too few teachers are prepared to teach it effectively — particularly in the earlier grades. That’s why IBM created Teachers TryScience, a global resource for science lessons and support for front-line educators. The Teachers TryScience website offers 589 lessons in 15 languages (including 116 new lessons in four new languages added in 2015 alone), along with 69 pedagogical videos and tutorials. IBM developed each resource in collaboration with master science teachers

The program made an especially strong impact in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in 2015. In Vietnam, the website proved so effective that the Sóc Sơn district in Hanoi integrated Teachers TryScience’s lessons and active learning methodologies into the official secondary school curriculum. And in Kenya, IBM established a partnership with the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) — the Ministry of Education’s professional development agency for STEM teachers — to train 100 education leaders from urban, rural and arid regions how to integrate Teachers TryScience into their classrooms. This effort helped engage nearly 15,000 students throughout 2015. In 2016, CEMASTEA and IBM plan to train 200 educators in 10 counties — part of a three-year rollout of Teachers TryScience in Kenya.

IBM Watson cognitive computing already is helping to accelerate progress in medicine and healthcare. Watson has the ability to synthesize massive amounts of data in service of human decision making, and to collaborate with experts using natural language — providing assistance when it is most needed at the point of patient contact. This ability sets Watson apart as the world’s most powerful realization of artificial intelligence. But doctors aren’t the only ones who need help making the best decisions based on the best quality of information. Teachers — who connect our children with the worlds of opportunity and imagination — too often lack the needed support to help them hone their skills and deliver high-quality instruction to their students. Teachers need Watson, too!

Teacher Advisor, Powered by IBM Watson was created by teachers, for teachers. Now in development, it will serve as a virtual mentor to educators. Teacher Advisor will help teachers enhance their content knowledge, strengthen their lesson-planning skills and improve their overall instructional practice. Best of all, it will be available whenever a teacher needs it — discreetly, confidentially and totally free. Teacher Advisor will launch as a pilot in August 2016, and will be available to all teachers during the 2016 — 17 school year.

Using technology to spread knowledge and skills

Teachers TryScience — Added 116 new STEM lessons in four new languages in 2015

Teacher Advisor, Powered by IBM Watson — Confidential, no-cost, virtual teacher mentor debuts in August 2016

Academic initiatives — Providing Watson Analytics and IBM Bluemix® free of charge to more than 6,500 universities worldwide

Building the pipeline

Launched in 2010 to help link postsecondary education more closely to the skills needed in the workplace, the IBM University Relations Future Skills Project engages first-year university students in a cooperative, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) curriculum. IBM in Japan is among the nearly 60 companies and 20 major universities that participate in the program. In 2015, an IBM volunteer conducted a series of workshops to introduce undergraduates at Yokohama National University to IBM Watson cognitive computing — thereby helping prepare the next generation to develop new business ideas incorporating leading-edge technologies.

IBM University Relations



Awards and engagement programs in more than 20 countries



IBM Bluemix development platform codes issued to faculty and students



Emerging innovators engaged by IBM’s developer skills program

Learning to innovate

In August 2015, the IBM China Software Development Lab, Taiwan’s Department of Transportation and Logistics Management, National Chiao Tung University, and transport engineering experts THI Consultants joined forces to compete in the first Electronic Toll Collection Innovation Contest sponsored by the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau. The goal was to encourage and support solutions to freeway congestion. The team of IBM and its government, university and industry partners won the top award for an innovative solution incorporating gamification, streaming analytics and user experience design — using IBM Watson analytics and cognitive capabilities.

IBM also initiated an IBM Bluemix development platform curriculum at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. IBM Taiwan’s chief technology officer and 12 software engineers from the China Development Lab ran the program, through which students gained hands-on opportunities to create web applications, mobile apps and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions using Bluemix. A second program united IBM in Taiwan with National Cheng-Chi University to teach Bluemix development for mobile applications. Additional university partners included National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, National Chiao Tung University and National Chiayi University. The IBM team plans to combine the lectures and exercises from the various engagements into Taiwan’s first Bluemix textbook.

In India, Bluemix was the focus of an IBM collaboration with the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala. The partners sought to develop an IoT-based protocol for monitoring and adjusting water quality in public filtration and distribution systems.