A growing number of companies are acknowledging that they must take an active role in improving the quality of education in the United States. Their concern: In the future, they may be unable to find enough qualified people for technical positions that require strong backgrounds in subjects such as math and science.
The latest company to try to do something about the potential crisis is IBM, which today announced the creation of The IBM Transition to Teaching program. The program addresses “the critical shortage” of math and science teachers by encouraging employees to become fully accredited teachers.
IBM will reimburse participants—who elect to leave the company—-up to $15,000 for tuition and stipends while they student teach, as well as provide online mentoring and other support services in conjunction with partner colleges, universities and school districts.
In its announcement, IBM referenced U.S. Department of Labor data predicting that jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training will increase 51 percent through 2008. This increase could lead to 6 million job openings for scientists, engineers and technicians.
In order to prepare today’s students for these careers, more than 260,000 new math and science teachers are needed by the 2008-2009 school year. Simultaneously, 76 million baby boomers are approaching traditional retirement age, with many reporting they plan to continue working in fields where they can give back to their communities, noted IBM.
Officials said IBM will begin a pilot with as many as 100 US employees in various geographic areas across the country and, if successful, will expand significantly and engage other companies as well.
Big Blue said each employee will be able to participate in both online course work and more traditional courses, while remaining at the company, as well as student teach for up to three months in order to meet state certification requirements.
“Many of our experienced employees have math and science backgrounds and have made it clear that when they are ready to leave IBM they aren’t ready to stop contributing,” said Stanley Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation and vice president of IBM Corporate Community Relations.
In 2002, an equally concerned Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launched the “Innovative Teachers” professional development program, which includes $50 million in software grants for educational institutions.
And in early 2004, James Simons, whose Medallion hedge fund could be the most successful investment fund of all-time, founded Math for America with other top mathematicians, investment bankers and educations. One of its programs is training 180 math teachers for the New York City public high schools and giving 40 or so existing teachers stipends for undergoing professional development.