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America’s High-Tech Skills Gap Is a Very Real Challenge: IBM

Randy Tolentino began his career writing hip-hop lyrics. Today, he's writing code as a "new collar" IBMer. Photo: IBM

Randy Tolentino began his career writing hip-hop lyrics. Today, he’s writing code as a “new collar” IBMer. Photo: IBM

Since pledging to hire 25,000 American workers by 2020, IBM (NYSE: IBM), the country’s largest technology employer, has been elevating stories of employees who have achieved success in “new collar” jobs.

These positions, in some of the technology industry’s fastest growing fields, do not always require a four-year college degree, but rather the right mix of in-demand skills needed to get the job done.

“IBM is making the IT industry more inclusive. With our emphasis on new collar jobs, we are focused on hiring for capability, not just credentials,” stated Sam Ladah, Vice President for Talent at IBM.

“In fact, over the past few years, 10 to 15 percent of our U.S. hires did not have a traditional 4 year degree. An even larger percentage of our U.S. job openings do not necessarily require a four-year degree.”

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Through programs ranging from coding camps to community college courses and innovative vocational schools, IBM new collar colleagues have built marketable skills in fields from cybersecurity and cloud computing to digital design.

Their experiences underscore that new collar jobs offer pathways to career success, and also the importance of expanding career-relevant skills training programs to help more Americans fill the more than half-a-million technology jobs currently open in the United States.

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IBM has profiled a number of new collar employees on THINKPolicy, its official channel for addressing public policy priorities. These IBMers come from across the United States, and reflect diversity of both backgrounds and career experiences.

“America’s high-tech skills gap is a very real challenge,” added Christopher A. Padilla, Vice President of IBM Government and Regulatory Affairs.

“But these new collar IBMers show that it absolutely can be closed. In fact, data shows that closing the skills gap could fill one million jobs by 2020.”

Even as IBM invests heavily in skills development and retraining for its U.S. workforce, the company says it will continue advocating for Congressional action to open more pathways to new collar success.

Updating and reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is one important step that enjoys broad bipartisan support, and that would make career-oriented skills education the rule, not the exception, in U.S. education.

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