IBM to help veteran employees launch teaching careers

Company will pay salaries and benefits for those going into science and math

September 17, 2005|By Jon Van | Jon Van,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Taking a step toward halting the decline of America's leadership in technology, International Business Machines Corp. said yesterday that it will help its veteran employees launch new careers teaching math and science.

IBM will give the employees salaries and benefits while they take necessary courses to become teachers. It will also pay tuition costs up to $15,000.

The effort will begin in January with a pilot program in New York and North Carolina that will include up to 100 IBM employees. Plans are for the program to roll out nationwide in January 2007, said Stanley Litow, head of the IBM Foundation.

IBM is committed to helping the nation's schools recruit qualified people to teach math and science, he said. "There's a shortage of more than a quarter-million math and science teachers," he said. "We know there's a crisis in U.S. classrooms."

Many IBM employees have expressed interest in moving to second careers in teaching rather than leaving the company for full retirement, Litow said. The company will help employees enroll in the classes they need to take to become teachers and will help connect them with student teaching posts.

For years, technology companies have warned that too few American students take science and math courses and that teaching of those subjects has fallen behind that of other countries.

Earlier this year, a report from the American Electronics Association noted that China graduates four times as many engineers as does the United States and that Korea, with a population one-sixth as large, graduates as many engineers.

"If we hope to continue as the world's leading science and technology economy, we need to act now," the report warned.

IBM's effort to convert employees to teachers marks a new twist in the firm's continuing interest in education. Since 1994, Big Blue has invested $75 million worldwide in a school reform program of training teachers.

A survey by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. found that 70 percent of employees over age 55 had some interest in starting a second career, Litow said. Other corporations are watching the pilot program with an eye toward offering similar programs for their employees, he added.

James B. Hunt Jr., former governor of North Carolina who now heads an education leadership institute, called the IBM program "one of the most exciting and hopeful things I have seen to help us have more highly qualified math and science teachers."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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