Ginni Rometty says employers must be open to skilled workers without four-year degrees

Key Points
  • IBM created a program called P-TECH to help students in underserved areas get a high-school degree and two-year associate degree in STEM fields.
  • The program is doubling the number of U.S. schools it's in to more than 200, former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told CNBC's Inclusion in Action Forum on Thursday.
Innovation and Inclusivity: IBM's Ginni Rometty and P-TECH's Rashid Davis in CNBC Inclusion Forum
Innovation and Inclusivity: IBM's Ginni Rometty and P-TECH's Rashid Davis in CNBC Inclusion Forum

Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty believes employers are missing out on skilled workers who don't get a traditional four-year college degree.

"As an employer, you have to open up the pathways to bring people in that may have gotten a skill and not through a four-year degree," Rometty said. "One of the things that you have to break through is a paradigm that a company says, 'Boy, if I hire people that are associate degree or come through an apprentice program, I am watering down my workforce.' That is absolutely factually not true."

To help with this goal, an IBM-created program that brings training and job opportunities to high school students from communities with high concentrations of poverty is expanding, Rometty said Thursday at CNBC's Inclusion in Action Forum

Founded in 2011 in Brooklyn, Pathways to Technology, or P-TECH, offers a six-year program for students complete high school requirements and obtain an associate degree. The program focuses on STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and includes mentorship, internship and job opportunities. Each program is done in partnership with a high school, community college and industry partner, and about 600 companies are now participating.

The program will now operate more than 200 schools in the United States and nearly 100 globally. Currently, there are about 100 P-TECH schools operating in 11 states, with the bulk in Texas, New York and Maryland. 

Rometty said that its first cohort of students graduated at 4 times the on-time community college graduation rate, while 75% of its total students have gone on to earn their four-year degree.