COLLABORATION

University of Louisville, IBM to close tech gap with new ‘Skills Academy’

SOURCE: IBM press/Flickr
UofL President Neeli Bendapudi and Naguib Attia, IBM’s vice president of Global University Programs, speak at a press conference to announce the school's partnership with IBM.

Technology giant IBM Corp and the University of Louisville (UofL) in the US have forged a partnership to build a “Skills Academy” at the university, focused on digital learning and technology skills.

This is the first academy of its kind between IBM and a higher learning institute but won’t be the last. As part of a wider agenda to bridge the digital divide between Middle America and the rest of the country, the company is in discussions with four universities to open similar academies.

The academy with UofL will be housed in the newly-created Center for Digital Transformation in the Miller Information Technology Center on the Belknap Campus, and will open by the start of the fall semester.  

The academy will train both students and faculty on eight fast-growing technology areas, namely artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, cybersecurity, cloud computing, internet of things, quantum computing, data science and design thinking.

Their completion of the training units will earn them college credit and IBM digital credentials. According to UofL, faculty trained by the academy will also serve as workforce development agents for the community.

Through its Academic Initiative, IBM will provide the academy with its software and cloud technology, valued at approximately US$5 million a year.

“But the value of this far exceeds that figure. When you have two great institutions working together, who can say where the opportunity lies?” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi when announcing the partnership.

The partnership is the product of a meeting Bendapudi had with Naguib Attia, IBM’s vice president of Global University Programs, at a recent event.

“When I heard about IBM’s vision to try and bridge the digital divide, I knew we had to work quickly,” Bendapudi said.

“It is important for us to be nimble with this, to be truly transformative, to say, ‘We see what’s coming, how can we be proactive?’ I am extremely grateful to IBM.”

Across the world, the accelerated pace of advancements in areas like artificial intelligence has raised fears over the impact the technology will have on the jobs market. Already, there exists a major shortfall in digital talent everywhere, with many graduates entering employment not able to match the demand for skills in technologies like AI, blockchain, data analytics and cloud computing.

According to Attia, over 120 million jobs will be affected within the next three years by this trend.

“These skills are the most critical issue of our time and the south has the highest number of employees without an education beyond high school,” Attia said.

“If we don’t work to close this gap, it could have a negative impact on millions of people.”