IBM’s apprenticeship program was pioneered at its RTP office in 2017. Since then, the program has spread to several IBM offices. In two years, it has led to nearly 200 employees being taught how to code, run cybersecurity and a host of other skills. Around 90% of people in the program have become full-time IBM employees, the company said.
Kelli Jordan, director of career and skills at IBM, said the program was born of necessity, with hundreds of thousands of IT job openings around the country going unfilled.
“Every company is becoming a tech company in some sort of way. … It is a bit of a numbers game,” she said. “There’s over 700,000 (unfilled) tech jobs, and when you look at candidates that are coming out of the traditional pipeline, there are only about 70,000 with a computer science degree. Those numbers don’t match up.”
So IBM came to the realization it had to recruit differently.
“That meant looking at community colleges and coding boot camps,” she said, rather than just depending on the universities producing enough computer science graduates.
The apprenticeship model — where potential workers get paid while they learn new skills — has been around for a long time, mainly in the trades. IBM says it’s one of the first tech companies to try the model. In the IBM program, apprentices receive 200 hours of learning on average, both in the classroom and in real-life projects, applying new skills and getting real-time feedback.
Jordan said she has received loads of calls from other companies about how to set up a similar program.
As an added benefit, tech companies could also increase their workforce diversity by hiring from nontraditional sources of talent.
“For us, it definitely has helped with diversity,” IBM’s Jordan said. “We do see candidates who may have not been able to go to a traditional college but have been able to build skills.”
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