Time to integrate coding, STEM, life and career skills in the classroom curriculum

Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India, on their skill-building initiatives to create a future-ready talent pool skilled in-hybrid cloud, AI, cybersecurity, chip design, systems programming, and container technologies.

1. How is IBM helping India solve its skilling problem and helping graduates stay relevant and prepare themselves to address the current market demand?

As part of our commitment to skilling 30 million people globally by 2030, our wide range of courses aims to bridge the gap between the existing talent pool and market requirements. We have partnered with multiple government bodies across sectors to incorporate technical and professional skills and training as part of the curriculum from school to college.


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Through the IBM Skills Build program, we address the requirements of university students where we offer on-site IBM internships and apprenticeships. Through our SkillsBuild Platform initiative, we placed over 18,500 learners in jobs in 2021. We have collaborated with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to offer a free digital education platform focused on emerging technologies like hybrid cloud, AI, cybersecurity, chip design, systems programming, and container technologies.

Our academic partnerships with some of the top institutes in the country aim to provide skilling opportunities in research & development (R&D) and emerging technologies. Our collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for the IBM-IISc Hybrid Cloud Lab, for instance, is helping advance research in hybrid cloud technologies and drive breakthrough innovations. The lab will bring together a talented community of scientists, faculty, and students passionate about solving some of the most pressing research challenges that enterprises face today and develop skills by working on real-world use cases.

With our expansion to tier-II cities like Kochi and Ahmedabad with our software labs and Mysuru, Hyderabad, and Coimbatore with our consulting business, our focus is to build the skills and digital innovation among the youths with the best technology for the IT/ITeS sector in the states. IBM is committed to harnessing the power of good tech and nurturing a diverse future-ready talent pool.

2. There has been an acceleration in exponential technologies such as Cloud, AI, hybrid cloud, automation, cyber security, and more. How can the graduates get practical knowledge of these technologies? Is IBM increasing partnership with technical colleges to impart knowledge as per the industry demand?

IBM is at the forefront of the Skill India & Digital India missions, working with the academia, industry bodies, and the government to provide professional & technical skills to youths and teachers. In addition to the new-age technologies, we have a razor-sharp focus on bridging the vast cybersecurity skills gap. We intend to train 500,000 people in India over the next five years in relevant and emerging cybersecurity skills to help provide the required specialised and relevant skills in various security domains.

To strengthen India’s quantum roadmap, we facilitate over-the-cloud access to our quantum systems for top-tier institutions like the IITs, IISc, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), etc. The aim is to help accelerate advanced training and research in quantum computing.

3. What are India’s challenges while encouraging the girls towards education, more so for science education. How will the STEM for Girls initiative help in overcoming the challenges?

India hosts the world’s youngest population – we as a country can provide unmatched talent in the STEM space. Of the several initiatives undertaken to take this momentum to the next level and help students and women plan their careers in the tech space. IBM STEM for Girls program offers a 3-year programme that helps students pursue and understand their potential in ‘new collar’ careers. This programme is currently running in 13 states in India, benefiting close to 2,30,000 girls and 1,15,000 boys. We also integrate coding, STEM, and life and career skills within the classroom curriculum. Our approach is not just to help students get skilled but also to follow the ‘Teach the Teacher’ concept and empower teachers with new-age skills. We have trained close to 8500 + teachers so far from over 1790 schools across the country.

Interestingly, women make up about 50% of STEM graduates. We also see a healthy representation in the campus hires, where 34% of the women are already a part of India’s IT industry workforce, and the opportunity is only growing. To encourage more women to come on board and be in technical roles, we have Tech Re-Entry Program for experienced professionals who took a break from the workforce and are looking to restart their careers. This programme offers a unique opportunity to re-build their skills through an array of well-curated learning programs, on-the-job projects, and access to the latest technologies and multi-disciplinary teams.

4. What’s the ideal AI curriculum for grade XI and XII students that will soon be introduced by CBSE and the Ministry of Skill Development for ITI students?

We understand the importance of imbibing interest in technology and furthering the academic frontiers of technology, for which IBM is working closely with schools and universities. We have collaborated with CBSE to develop a curriculum of Artificial Intelligence, which is currently being offered as an elective subject for classes IX to XII. Launched in 2019, the IBM AI program has reached out to over 15000+ students and 6000+ teachers from 200+ CBSE schools across different states in India.

The IBM AI curriculum is structured around a course framework for students consisting of base strands of knowledge, skills, and values in AI. It is strengthened with problem-based learning outcomes and assessment methods for teachers to build foundational skills of AI in students, making them not just consumers of AI but also creators. To meet CBSE’s Grade XI & XII requirements, the curriculum was co-developed with Australia’s Macquarie University and Indian implementation partners – Learning Links Foundation and 1M1B.

We have also collaborated with the Ministry of Skill Development to run a two-year Advanced Diploma Programme on IT networking and Cloud Computing , which will be available to 100 Industrial Training Institutes (ITI), including 50 all-women ITIs.

5. Tell us something about your association with the Vigyan Jyothi Program anchored by The Department of Science & Technology (DST)?

There is a need to facilitate STEM education for meritorious girls and help them be better prepared to pursue a career in technology. IBM’s partnership with The Department of Science & Technology (DST) for Vigyan Jyothi and Vigyan Prasar will allow us to reach out to students and teachers in an interactive way. By scaling up the interactive learning platform, ‘Engage with Science’, we have helped to make learning relevant and fostered a scientific spirit among the country’s youth under the Vigyan Prasar engagement. With the help of IBM volunteers, we also support them with proper guidance to choose suitable career options.

We need to bridge the increasing skills gap in the country by training students on the technical and digital skills front. We have collaborated with Vigyan Jyothi Program to create a robust STEM ecosystem running in 100 schools under Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti. We believe that getting this ecosystem into practice will change the face of STEM For Girls’ agenda in our country. In this academic year, we are looking at expanding the Vigyan Jyothi program to 200 Schools across India.

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