Training and Development

'Made in America': Talent needed for made in America jobs

This is a contributed piece by Ross Mauri, General Manager at IBM z Systems

A recent report released by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), “Making Value for America, Embracing the Future of Manufacturing, Technology and Work,” made several stunning observations about the changing nature of work.  The NAE Committee confirmed one thing that has become all too clear -- globalization and new technologies are dramatically transforming jobs and business models in every sector. But, the Committee also revealed something new -- the lines between manufacturing, digital technology and services are rapidly blurring if not being completely obliterated.  Manufacturing is now an inseparable part of the value chain and can no longer be considered in a vacuum. 

Companies must act now to adequately prepare their people and realign their practices to reflect this new reality.  Failure to do so threatens to accelerate the widening skills gap and exacerbate the competitive challenges America faces in the global marketplace.  The report’s recommendation that businesses strengthen their training programs and step-up collaboration with schools, community colleges and universities is a much-needed wakeup call to leaders in government, education and the private sector. 

In recent years, we have seen a growing national movement to revive American manufacturing and replenish the diminishing pipeline of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students and workers.  In 2011, a unique government-business alliance, the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, was formed to strengthen US advanced manufacturing, create jobs and attract new investments.   

There also is a need for stronger partnerships between businesses and schools to continually realign curricula with the jobs of today, and tomorrow.  In the IT industry for example, the explosion of big data has resulted in a booming global demand for job candidates who can uncover insights from data to solve problems and act on findings quickly. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. 

But, a recent study by Jonathan Rothwell of the Brookings Institution found that while there are nearly four million unfilled job openings for computer workers in the United States, American colleges and universities are producing only 40,000 computer science bachelor’s degrees every year. The talent pipeline is even narrower at the high-school level, where in 2013 only 30,000 US students took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam.

Educators and employers must work together to better align the skills being taught with the most in-demand skill sets. One positive step in this direction would be a collaborative push to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which aligns educational programs with regional, state and local labor market needs.

I’ve made the nurturing of “Made in America” talent a big part of my focus at IBM.  Most forward-thinking computer technology firms understand the value of supporting robust grant and STEM partnerships with schools and universities across the country.  Adding to our long history of educational collaborations, last year IBM announced new partnerships with 28 business schools and universities to help prepare students for the 4.4 million jobs that will be created worldwide to support big data by this year. 

And over the past decade, more than 74,000 university students from America and around the world have participated in the company’s Master the Mainframe coding contest.  This competition is focused on equipping a new generation of experts in the design, development and manufacturing of the IBM mainframe that for 50 years has served as the backbone of the digital economy.  In just the past six months, more than 4,900 students participated in the North American competition.  On March 24th, I conferred awards to the top five winners, led by Kevin Matesi, a graduate student at Northern Illinois University, at the birthplace of the mainframe, IBM’s lab in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Kevin and thousands of other Master the Mainframe participants will be first in line for jobs, especially as major companies prepare to put the newest version of the mainframe to work processing unprecedented amounts of data every day.  The first system designed for the mobile economy, the new z13 mainframe was conceived, developed and manufactured in Poughkeepsie. The first models have left the factory floor and are now on their way to customers.  The z13 is not only an innovative IT game-changer, it is good for jobs and the local economy of Poughkeepsie.  But most important, it says to our young people, we need your Made in America talent so we can keep making Made in America breakthroughs that benefit us all.


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