IBM Apprenticeship

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Feature story

Apprenticeships at IBM are all about picking up new skills – and lots of them. The IBM Apprenticeship program gives an opportunity for candidates without advanced degrees to build new technical skills while getting paid.

The IBM Apprenticeship Program provides an entry point into IBM for candidates with relevant skills who may not have a traditional college degree — this skills-first approach to talent is what we call a “New Collar” Initiative. Our competency-based program is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, and allows apprentices to earn a paycheck while they build skills for various strategic roles. Launched in 2017, the program has expanded to more than 25 registered apprenticeship roles including cybersecurity, software development, data science, and design.

IBM believes that apprenticeships can help close the opportunity gap as well as narrow the skills gap in IT. To promote this approach, IBM is investing $250 million in apprenticeships and similar New Collar programs by 2025.

Oscar Anaya is an excellent example of IBM’s apprentices. He believed he would thrive in a tech job, but couldn’t find a way to get started.

“I love understanding systems and I'm good with computers. So, I applied for jobs, and I applied and applied, and no one was picking me up. The only criteria that I could think of was education. I started falling into a very nihilistic way of seeing the world, feeling trapped because I didn't finish college.”

Oscar Anaya
IBM Apprentice

Oscar is among approximately 62% of people in the U.S. without a bachelor’s degree. Requiring a bachelor's degree in hiring criteria excludes around 79% of Latinx people and 72% of Black people from consideration for roles. Our apprenticeship program does not require a bachelor’s degree. It is a pathway built for individuals who have acquired some relevant or adjacent skills, but most importantly those who are motivated to learn. Eventually, Oscar discovered IBM’s cybersecurity apprenticeship program in Austin, Texas. He joined the program in 2019 and today works full-time at IBM — as do more than 90% of apprenticeship program graduates. By year-end 2022, IBM expects to surpass 1,000 apprenticeship hires since the program began.

IBM apprentices complete learning courses and on-the-job training designed to develop the skills and competencies essential to their future roles. Apprentices proceed at their own pace, but most complete their learning within 12 months and graduate with a credential from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Discover IBM's Apprenticeship
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Another innovative approach to developing skilled workers is the IBM Tech Re-Entry Programs, which seeks people looking to rejoin the workforce after a career break. This paid “returnship” provides a path back to full-time employment and helps individuals modernize their skills with learning, plus mentorship from IBM experts. Available in nine countries, this initiative is also providing opportunities to people whose careers were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

IBM’s focus on new paths into New Collar jobs has expanded the way we train and hire people for many high-tech roles. IBM has removed the requirement of a bachelor’s degree for more than half of our U.S. job openings, and we’re continuously re-evaluating our roles to prioritize skills over specific degrees.

Explore the IBM Apprenticeship Program