Education with ‘business in mind’ | Inquirer Business

Education with ‘business in mind’

/ 12:16 AM March 12, 2017
IBM VP Diane Melley receives the Award for Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship from the Global Peace Foundation

IBM VP Diane Melley receives the Award for Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship from the Global Peace Foundation

Families struggling with poverty deal with a lot of practical questions when it comes to education.

And one question they want an answer to is, will the years in school translate to a job?

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For more than half a decade, IBM Corp. has been trying to answer that question in the affirmative through an educational program that traces its roots to a school in New York City, an initiative that a top official described as a “system change”, one that seeks to strengthen the bond between the educational system and the corporate world.

Under the initiative called P-Tech, a high school student is enrolled in a six-year no cost educational program that equips graduates with an associate degree in applied science, engineering, computers and related disciplines.

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In a landscape that is increasingly being shaped by the Information Technology (IT) industry, the potential for P-Tech students is growing more relevant.

“It really is the first model introduced in the US and we are spreading it around the world that bridges your K-12 education with your community college education,” Diane Melly, IBM Vice President for Global Citizenship Initiatives told the Inquirer in a recent interview.

P-Tech, which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School, was first introduced in Brooklyn, New York, in 2011.

It then branched out worldwide, although the majority of its schools are still based in the United States.

Melly estimated around 500 to 600 number of students per school.

Since 2011, the model has grown in size and popularity as other tech companies have also followed suit.

As of 2016, she said there were already 60 P-Tech schools around the world, with the number expected to hit 100 this year.

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Out of last year’s figure, IBM is the lead partner in 10.

The IBM co-led initiative also includes an internship program wherein an employee from one of 300 partner companies would mentor the student, a process which she described as “critical” to the process.

This is a welcome development to a larger global initiative that have long sought to establish better links between the academe and the workplace.

Melly, who was recently awarded for Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship by the Global Peace Foundation, said the P-Tech curriculum was “built with business in mind.”

“We just graduated the first class last year. The numbers are not huge overall but indicators are very strong,” she said, citing some standards, such as retention rates and job employment.

The company is also engaged in efforts to address other social issues, such as women empowerment and youth leadership, in addition to their response initiatives to natural disasters. However, the multiple concerns that a good education solves puts it at the forefront of IBM’s global citizenship projects.

“The number one issue across all of our corporate social responsibility is education because we think education is the key to everything to really empower people to deal with other issues,” she said.

However, the program doesn’t fit in every country, she said.

“It requires again a system change where the local educational system has to coordinate with the higher educational systems and with the workforce. This is so the curriculum was built with business in mind, knowing what the jobs are and making sure of the skills that young people are acquiring,” she said.

If it branches out its P-Tech program to the Philippines, it will come at a time when the country is in the early stages of shifting to the K-12 program.

Melly, who’s had years of experience on the job, declined to share details regarding the plan to set up the P-Tech here in the country.

However, she did say that the company is already talking with the authorities.

“We would love to see it here in the Philippines and the discussion has just begun,” she said.

This is just one of the activities that form part of IBM’s global citizenship program.

In 2015, IBM responded to the Nepal Earthquake by flying a team there to apply a disaster management software that provided analytical and information tools that helped in the rebuilding program.

“So they used the software to manage volunteers and to manage the construction of the temporary housing for the victims,” she said.

The Sahana software, which IBM previously produced in collaboration with volunteers, helped in efforts to track dead and missing persons, and displaced persons in refugee camps, while also improving logistics efforts. This has grown useful as well in responding to the needs of the ongoing refugee crisis.

The company’s efforts to open up more opportunities to individuals who did not have the privilege of growing up in a conducive environment are growing more important in recent times.

With the world facing uncertainties in politics, companies such as IBM Corp. work to use their strengths to help soften the blow, should these issues affect people on the ground.

For more efforts to be successful, Melly said the government and the private sector need to see social issues, such as the refugee crisis and education, in the same way.

Nevertheless, she said these trying times “only make our work even much more meaningful.”

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