Tech executives are joining President-elect Donald Trump today for a roundtable focused, like much of Trump’s campaign, on jobs. This morning, USA Today published an editorial by one of these executives, Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM. She says that over the next four years, IBM is hiring 25,000 professionals and investing $1 billion in training and development in the U.S.
One week after Trump was elected, Rometty wrote an open letter on IBM’s blog with her recommendations on economic policy. She wrote about creating “new collar” jobs and the importance of vocational education. In today’s editorial, she elaborates on this topic:
“We are hiring because the nature of work is evolving – and that is also why so many of these jobs remain hard to fill. As industries from manufacturing to agriculture are reshaped by data science and cloud computing, jobs are being created that demand new skills – which in turn requires new approaches to education, training and recruiting.”
About one-third of IBM’s U.S. employees do not have a four-year degree, and in 2011, the company launched a new educational model called Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a six-year public high school that combines “a relevant traditional curriculum with necessary skills from community colleges, mentoring and real-world job experience.” The first school is located in Brooklyn and operates in partnership with the City University of New York. Rometty writes, “It has achieved graduation rates and successful job placement that rival elite private schools, with 35% of students from the first class graduating one to two years ahead of schedule with both high school diplomas and two-year college degrees.” IBM is working with local governments to develop more schools and plans to open at least 20 in 2016.
On December 1, the U.S. Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School hosted the first Adult Schools Growth forum to begin a conversation on expanding adult educational opportunities. Recommended action steps included incentivizing “diverse program options” and talking with local employers “about creating a pipeline of skilled workers for unfilled jobs through a partnership with an adult school.”
Trump was arguably elected in large part due to his focus on jobs. Training and workforce development are, of course, integral to creating and filling new jobs, especially in what Rometty calls “new collar jobs,” or jobs that are opening due to new business areas, including, at IBM, cloud computing, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Rometty argues that many new collar skills do not require four-year degrees and can instead be developed through adult education partnerships and on-the-job training: “To create new collar jobs we will need new kinds of collaboration – involving federal and state governments, public school systems, community colleges and private business, across multiple industries.”
Specific details about today’s agenda have not been disclosed. However, with rapid changes in technology and the accompanying need for rapid skills development in the workforce, it may not be a bad idea for tech leaders – and political leaders – to put Rometty’s ideas about training on the table.