IBM is profiling employees who have found success in "new collar" jobs on THINKPolicy, its channel for addressing public policy priorities, highlighting the different backgrounds that can lead someone into the tech workforce.
IBM recently committed to hiring 25,000 American workers by 2020. As part of that effort, IBM wants to drive more attention to alternative forms of education, making career-oriented skills education more accessible and acceptable.
Big Blue is hoping the efforts will help it build a more diverse workforce, hiring for capability rather than credentials. For example, Rey Lozano, out of Houston, TX, transitioned from the fast food industry to network management through an associate's degree and industry credentials. Now he oversees infrastructure for Bluemix. Another worker, Cecelia Schartiger, started at IBM as a project staffer, before using community college and on-the-job training to move into cybersecurity.
IBM is demonstrating how alternative forms of education can lead to jobs in the tech workforce, through efforts such as coding online commerce experiences, overseeing network infrastructure or enhancing cybersecurity. None of the seven individuals profiled on IBM’s site have a traditional college degree. Instead, they have a combination of college, on the job training or alternative education like coding camps.
IBM may be on to something. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently estimated the tech industry will generate 1.3 million new jobs by 2022, and candidates armed with an associate's degree or some college experience but no degree will have access to 23% of the workforce. In other words, a college degree is no longer critical to getting a good job.
And companies have to do something to rework their labor pipelines. Traditional education paths no longer produce enough tech workers to staff the ever-growing industry. IBM is trying to show new ways to develop the workforce, such as its new educational model that consists of six-year public high schools that combine conventional education with mentoring and on-the-job experience.
There may also be another method to IBM’s "new collar" PR campaign. Making itself broadly known as an employer that encourages alternative forms of education and diversity could help the company get a crack at emerging tech talent before its competitors do.