How IBM Is Helping Bridge the Digital Divide
Through free technology training and education partnerships, the company plans to skill 30 million people by 2030.
Talent shortages in the U.S. have reached a 10-year high, and that shortage is even starker in the tech industry, with more than 1.2 million U.S. job vacancies in software-related professions. But business leaders are quickly learning that finding capable workers to fill this growing number of roles will require a more inclusive strategy for hiring and reskilling talent.
“We know many talented individuals have the knowledge, skills, and abilities companies are looking for, but the system that we have doesn’t work well for applicants or current employees,” says Lydia Logan, vice president for Global Education and Workforce Development in the Corporate Social Responsibility department at IBM. “Companies need to look beyond the old paradigm to create opportunities.”
IBM is investing in the future of work with a holistic approach that offers access to education and training while creating a more diverse pipeline of applicants to fill the skills gap. In October 2021, IBM announced partnerships with more than 170 academic and industry organizations across the U.S., Japan, India, and elsewhere to help reach its goal of providing technical skills to 30 million people of all ages by 2030. In 2021 alone, IBM reached 3.5 million people globally.
“Through our partners, we can reach those who’ve been traditionally underrepresented in technology: women, veterans, minorities, neurodivergent people, and refugees,” Logan explains. “We can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach.”
These partnerships are designed to help democratize opportunity and give new generations of workers the tools they need to build a better future. They include everything from technical education for teens at public schools and universities to on-site IBM internships and apprenticeships. In September 2022, IBM announced it was expanding its collaboration with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to help them establish cybersecurity leadership centers to increase the number of underrepresented students in the growing field of cybersecurity.
IBM’s education program, called IBM SkillsBuild, is an essential component in reaching the company’s skills goal, and available for free to anyone with an internet connection. To ensure learners can understand course materials and professional competency, content is offered in local languages. The online portion of the program offers more than 1,000 courses in 19 languages on cybersecurity, data analysis, cloud computing, and many other technical disciplines.
Bria Whitehead is one student who was able to access IBM SkillsBuild while attending Baton Rouge Community College. Through the program, she acquired skills in cybersecurity, professional skills, and agile learning, which she used to land a spot as an IBM apprentice in 2022, giving her access to IBM classes and on-the-job training.
“IBM SkillsBuild was extremely valuable in giving me a foundation in the many fields of computer science and gaining fundamental knowledge,” Whitehead says. “I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me.”
Through its skills programs and partnerships, IBM plans to reach millions like Whitehead. “We want to make sure there are no barriers to entry,” says Logan. “What we are doing isn’t just good for business—it’s good for society.”