- IBM is offering its employees the opportunity to take courses in data science and artificial intelligence with online learning company Simplilearn, a move that reflects growing interest among companies in offering their workers tech-based skills training.
- The set of four programs will be offered through Simplilearn's web-based learning management system and includes live virtual classrooms, access to teaching assistants, self-paced video instruction courses and assessments, according to the company. Upon completion, participants earn certificates from Simplilearn and IBM.
- Although they are billed as "master's programs," Simplilearn's chief marketing officer, Mark Moran, told Education Dive in an interview that they are not accredited and are intended as corporate training.
Calling the certificates "master's programs" was not intended to confuse people, Moran said. "It's around mastery, so we are highly focused on business outcomes and corporate training and how do you get somebody (to be) a master of that domain and able to be job-ready from the moment they graduate from that class," he added.
The collaboration pairs Simplilearn's training and instructors with course content from IBM. It is launching with two of the programs, which target data scientists and artificial intelligence (AI) engineers and cost $1,299 each. The remaining two, for data analysts and data engineers, will be available later this month.
Moran said learning pathways like the "master's programs" with IBM tend to take around a year to complete.
Rapid technological change has increased demand for skilled candidates in AI and other tech disciplines. The Simplilearn collaboration isn't the first such foray for IBM, which recently announced a certification program for data scientists as well as an apprentice program for those interested in the field. The company's rivals are making similar plays: Microsoft announced in April it would create a training partnership in AI for students in the U.S., the United Kingdom and France.
Such developments are part of a larger push by major employers to improve workforce access to education, thereby allowing them to pick from a larger pool of skilled workers. While these may take the form of apprenticeships for some, others, like JetBlue and Walmart, instead seek to encourage employees to develop new skills by funding their educational pursuits through grants, scholarships and tuition reimbursement.
Colleges are eyeing those partnerships as a revenue opportunity. Purdue University Global has signed on several companies, including Papa John's, that are offering employees low- or no-cost college degrees. Arizona State University and the National University System have also announced dedicated efforts to tap into this demand. Such arrangements are thought to help universities avoid high student acquisition costs, particularly online.
Simplilearn, for its part, works with individual learners as well as with companies and about a dozen universities on co-branded technology education, Moran said. Among them is Duke University's continuing studies school, which partnered with Simplilearn to offer courses for a digital media and marketing certificate.
Moran added that the company also works directly with technology firms such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft "because their tool set is the tool set (students) should be working with." Companies' roles range from giving students access to simulations to providing existing training to help shape the curriculum.
Colleges are also working directly with tech companies on related education.
Other companies at the intersection of postsecondary institutions and companies seeking education options for their workers include Guild Education, which facilitates Walmart's $1-a-day degree program.