IBM goes to Trump Tower pledging 25,000 US hires

The hiring over four years may not represent a boost over existing plans

IBM will hire 25,000 workers in the U.S. over the next four years, the company's CEO said Tuesday on the eve of a meeting between technology industry leaders and President-Elect Donald Trump. The pledge comes just over a month after Trump criticized IBM for moving some jobs out of the country, an allegation IBM denied.

Domestic job creation is likely to be a major topic at the meeting. Trump has called for U.S. corporations to keep jobs in the country and last month asked Apple CEO Tim Cook to build iPhones in the U.S.

Ginni Rometty, who is on Trump's business advisory team, made the promise in a commentary for USA Today and didn’t say whether the hiring plans represented a change in strategy. She did say IBM would hire 6,000 out of the total number by the end of 2017. The company has thousands of open positions at any moment, she said.

IBM will also invest US$1 billion in training and development for U.S. employees over the next four years, she said. IBM was not immediately able to confirm whether the hiring or investment plans were new.

Tech investment pledges in the wake of Trump’s election last month may not necessarily represent the boost in domestic spending that he has promised to deliver. Earlier this month, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, whose company owns Sprint, said he would create 50,000 jobs through a $50 billion investment in U.S. startups. But that money reportedly will come out of a previously announced $100 billion investment Softbank had set up with Saudi Arabia.

IBM had 377,757 employees worldwide at the end of last year and earned just over $13 billion in net income that year. The company sold its PC business to China’s Lenovo in 2004 and its x86 server business to the same company in 2014.

Rometty’s article highlighted “new collar” jobs she said could be filled by people without advanced degrees. Those jobs, like cloud computing technicians and services delivery specialists, are being created as the economy is transformed by data science and cloud computing, and they're hard to fill, she said.

IBM supports new approaches to education to help fill such jobs in the future. It designed a new educational model with a six-year high school that combines traditional subjects with skills training from community colleges, mentoring and real-world job experience, Rometty said. A school on that model, Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, opened five years ago in Brooklyn.

Rometty also called for an update to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act on federal support for vocational education, and for collaboration between companies, schools and government. “We will not always agree, but progress in job creation will come from open discussion and engagement,” she wrote.

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