Article | November 12, 2019

Building Apprenticeships: IBM and the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition

CTA US Jobs Team

IBM, like many tech companies, faces an increased demand for skilled talent. To meet this demand, it has embraced innovative hiring practices. From P-TECH schools to digital badges to eliminating college degree requirements, IBM is educating and hiring workers from all backgrounds to bring diverse experiences into the workforce.

IBM leads the way in creating apprenticeships for new collar jobs in the tech industry. New collar jobs are the thousands of jobs that have been created due to tech advances and do not require a four-year college degree.

IBM’s apprenticeship program started out small, with a handful of participants, in the fall of 2017. Since then, it has rapidly grown, and IBM now has more than 20 apprenticeship occupational roles, ranging from software engineering to data analytics to cybersecurity, registered with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The diversity of roles offered by apprenticeships is matched by the diversity of the apprentices themselves. A barista, fiction writer, veteran, DACA recipient and firefighter have made their way through IBM’s program. Some of the most successful apprentices are those with a wealth of life experience to draw on.

“We have found a treasure chest of talent … that has the aptitude and ability to learn,” said Jennifer Oddo, program manager, Workforce and Apprenticeship Initiatives, IBM.

Despite their differences, the IBM apprentices show a willingness and sense of curiosity to learn the skills IBM specifically needs. That common thread among participants has proven crucial to making the program a success.

Over the last two years, IBM has learned unexpected lessons, including that career changers make great apprentices.

“We weren’t expecting that population to be interested in these jobs, but they are probably some of our most successful,” Oddo said. “These individuals have experience in the workforce, they have the professional skills, they understand how the world works a little bit more.”

At CES 2019, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® and IBM announced the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, a collaborative effort by CTA member companies to create and expand hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities nationwide. The coalition leverages the lessons and resources from IBM’s program to help CTA member companies build apprenticeship programs at their organizations. Through the coalition, companies receive help navigating organizational buy-in, creating related technical instruction and registering the apprenticeship with the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Our jobs begin with technology, but they don’t end there,” said Ginni Rometty, president and CEO, IBM, on the CES 2019 keynote stage. “To be trusted, it means you have to prepare society for whatever set of technologies are coming along. And particularly now — so no one’s left behind.”

Through the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, and with IBM’s leadership, the tech industry is beginning to use apprenticeship as a new pathway for Americans from all backgrounds to fill in-demand jobs in communities across the country.