IBM Helps Open Schools For The Next Generation Of IT Workers
March 5, 2012 Jenny Thomas
The importance of a good education is universally accepted, but it is no longer a guarantee of a good job. In fact, in many instances, a degree doesn’t guarantee any type of job these days. Which is why we should all be happy to hear that IBM is looking to change the odds of America’s students landing a job after graduation.
Last week, IBM released a “playbook” to help educators and business leaders in IT build schools specifically designed to connect public education to employment.
At the same time, IBM announced a plan developed with the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and City Colleges of Chicago, to open five schools that will span grades 9 through 14, designed to enable students to graduate with an associate’s degree and enter the workforce with the marketable skills that many employers now require.
Many of IBM’s past leaders have been gung-ho about education, notably former CEO and chairman Louis Gerstner, who talked in the Wall Street Journal about education reform in the wake of Barak Obama becoming president and who was on the long list (but didn’t make the short list) of potential candidates for Secretary of Education. Gerstner made some pretty radical recommendations, and that may be why he should have been listened to.
The Chicago schools are not IBM’s first foray into public education. The prototype, New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, was the nation’s first school designed to create a pathway from high school through college, directly to the workforce. It opened in September 2011 with more than 100 ninth grade students using grant funding from IBM.
The beginnings of this public-private partnership in education started back in 2010 when IBM created the Smarter Cities Challenge grant program, to which Big Blue pledged $50 million to 100 progressive cities worldwide to help improve city services and quality of life. Then, after a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future, projected science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs would grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, IBM started to focus on ways to create workers to fill these positions.
The IBM playbook called STEM Pathways to College and Careers Schools: A Development Guide, is the result of a three-month IBM Smarter Cites Challenge grant to the City of Chicago. It outlines how Chicago and other cities across the United States can implement an education model that blends high school, college, and career, and outlines specific details such as designing a curriculum, creating an integrated college experience, and building a strong teaching faculty.
The first IBM sponsored Chicago school will open in September 2012, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago, and will incorporate a six-year program focused on science, math, and technology skills. Each student will be able to graduate in four years with a high school diploma with college credits, with the ultimate goal of graduating within six years with an Associate of Science degree in computer science or an Associate in Applied Science in information technology. As one of the corporate sponsors of the schools, IBM will recruit corporate volunteers to mentor every student entering the school, both in-person and online, to assist in focusing students on career goals. IBM will also help shape the curriculum, provide guest speakers, do workplace visits, and offer internships. Graduates will be “first in line” for jobs at IBM.
“To put America back to work, parents, teachers, students, civic leaders, and private sector employers must collaborate on new and innovative approaches to public education,” said Stanley Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM, in announcing the company’s collaboration with Chicago.
With the opening of these schools, IBM certainly can be commended for taking action toward putting Americans to work while sustaining our future IT ecosystem.