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IBM's Rometty to urge Trump to support worker retraining

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty will arrive at Wednesday’s tech summit at Trump Tower with a message for the President-elect: Big Blue is already creating jobs.

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Rometty hopes to bend incoming President Donald Trump’s ear about ways to better train American workers so they are qualified enough to fill the growing number of “new collar” jobs that the Armonk, N.Y. tech giant is creating, many of which it says it cannot currently fill because of a growing skills gap for tech jobs.

“At IBM alone, we have thousands of open positions at any given moment, and we intend to hire about 25,000 professionals in the next four years in the United States, 6,000 of those in 2017,” Rometty said in an opinion column on USATODAY.com. “We are hiring because the nature of work is evolving – and that is also why so many of these jobs remain hard to fill.”

IBM plans to invest $1 billion in retraining and developing its U.S. workers over the next four years, Rometty says. To improve the situation nationwide, she will tout the benefits of reauthorizing the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. That legislation, currently held up in the Senate, funnels funding for technical and vocation education and could help with worker retraining for “new collar” jobs.

“In fact, at a number of IBM’s locations spread across the United States, as many as one-third of employees don’t have a four-year degree,” writes Rometty, who has publicly supported the legislation, along with increased funding for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

“What matters most is that these employees – with jobs such as cloud computing technicians and services delivery specialists – have relevant skills, often obtained through vocational training,” she wrote.

Expected to be joining the IBM CEO at Wednesday’s summit are Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Rometty already has an in with the new administration that her counterparts in Silicon Valley do not. She was named along with more than a dozen business leaders including former GE Chairman Jack Welch to the President-elect’s Strategic and Policy Forum, which focuses on job growth, the only tech CEO in the group.

Much of the tech industry backed Hillary Clinton, and Wednesday’s summit represents a chance to mend fences and gain face time with Trump. Executives may embrace Trump’s views on reduced taxation and industry regulations, but will likely want to voice concerns about Trump’s immigration policy, which could impact the supply of skilled tech workers.

Rometty’s plan represents one way to bridge that gap.

Still, the CEO may have a bit of explaining to do. News reports have indicated the company has cut several thousand jobs throughout the year as it shifts toward cloud-based services and data analytics, and away from its legacy systems software and hardware businesses. IBM spokesman Clint Roswell says IBM is undergoing a “rebalancing of skills to meet changing client needs. We’re ending year with the same number or more U.S. workers.”

First appeared on USAToday.



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