Like many other companies operating in Europe, the skills gap is a critical challenge for IBM: according to the Digital Economy and Society Index, over 70% of businesses report that staff without adequate digital skills is an obstacle to investment, while 40% of adults who work in Europe lack basic digital skills. Women are especially underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector as a whole, as just one out of six information communications technology specialists are women, as are only one third of graduates in STEM.
As part of a holistic investment in the future of work, IBM SkillsBuild, a free education programme, is changing this status quo by helping to close the skills gap, incentivising a skills-first approach and fostering diversity and inclusion. Through the initiative, 1.72 million registered adult learners, secondary and university students, and jobseekers around the world develop valuable new skills, obtain digital credentials and access new career opportunities.
Participants come from some of the very populations that are underrepresented in technology today: girls, women, disadvantaged communities and refugees. The programme includes an online platform and customised practical learning experiences with global partners, including schools and community organisations.
‘Technology training can have a transformational effect on a person’s life,’ according to Justina Nixon-Saintil, Chief Impact Officer, IBM. ‘We must raise awareness of the breadth of science and technology roles across industries. Together with our IBM SkillsBuild partners, we’re supporting many pathways for underrepresented communities to pursue futures in tech.’
These partners – and opportunities – are located all over the world. IBM SkillsBuild recently created 45 new and expanded collaborations, among them three notable examples in Europe. In France, IBM SkillsBuild is a critical part of courses in cybersecurity and cloud at the engineering school EFREI Paris. Partners such as French employment agency Pôle Emploi, LearnQuest and Needemand Technology likewise use IBM SkillsBuild to train jobseekers in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI).
In the Czech Republic, programmes supported by IBM include technical education for teens at public schools and universities; free, customisable online curricula for aspiring professionals; and paid, onsite IBM internships and apprenticeships, including mentorship opportunities. IBM SkillsBuild also partners with local non-profit organisations to help make underrepresented youth, women and military veterans job ready. Most recently, IBM now collaborates with Czechitas – an organisation dedicated to increasing digital proficiency and diversity in the information technology field – to help reskill Ukrainian refugees.
Similarly, the organisation New to Sweden uses IBM SkillsBuild as part of its free, online Ready to Work programme, which supports newcomers in Sweden entering the job market. For a younger demographic, IBM partners with Young Scientist to offer live lectures and a digital vacation school for its cybersecurity academy, which teaches children and young adults about safe habits online. Finally, War Child, an organisation that supports children and young people affected by conflict, uses IBM SkillsBuild as part of We Can Do IT!, an initiative to mentor and train young women in Sweden who have escaped war zones.
Europe still has a long way to go to reach the European Commission’s ambitious technology goals and ensure that 80% of the population has basic digital skills and that 75% of EU companies use cloud, AI and Big Data by 2030. However, with a concentrated effort by the public sector, the private sector and nongovernmental organisations to provide accessible, practical training to those who need it most, these objectives are achievable. IBM SkillsBuild has shown it can be done – and the company will continue to support these aims as Europe moves towards its digital transformation.
Read more in IBM’s Digital Skills Playbook for the EU.