How IBM Is Enabling the New Collar Worker?
With famous names such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk predicting that AI will end the world, discussions surrounding the future of blue or white-collar jobs seem redundant. The reality is actually far worse. Unless our education system starts delivering a workforce with the skills technology businesses need, the benefits that AI and other technical advancements can deliver will never even happen. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor stated that 500,000 jobs in technology-related sectors were unfilled.
The field of AI is exceptionally complex. Academia has been working on the math that makes it work for decades. As AI has matured, academia has also programmed the algorithms and designed the chips that have made it useful. But it will take more than graduates and research fellows to design, build, implement and maintain the infrastructure around AI that will make it useful to society.
At some point, employees will be needed to build and maintain server farms for backend support for AI applications, and more programmers will be required to develop the databases used for training AI. To fill such middle-skill roles, education in the U.S. is being updated to ensure there are enough applications for these ‘New Collar’ positions.
Since 2011, IBM has committed to supporting the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, program. The goal is to ensure that there are enough people in the workforce to fill such middle-skill jobs. The first such school opened in Brooklyn six years ago and has achieved graduation rates and job placements that rival those of private schools.
According to Sam Ladah, IBM Vice President of Human Resources, around 15% of IBM hires in the U.S. have less than a traditional bachelor’s degree. This is helping to make the organization more diverse and inclusive. And it isn’t just school-leavers that can profit from New Collar opportunities. Those seeking new challenges later in their career can reskill with IBM’s training sessions and one-on-one skills development programs.
AI is a critical technology that has enormous potential to do good in our society. But as it moves from the realm of academia into practical applications, New Collar roles must be filled to make it happen. IBM, with its investment in the P-TECH program, is demonstrating a pragmatic approach to this growing challenge.