Johnson C. Smith University. Photo: QCity Metro

IBM awarded Johnson C. Smith University $6 million as a part of its Skills Academy Academic Initiative. The multi-year program by IBM is donating more than $100 million in assets, including university guest lectures, curriculum content, digital badges, software and faculty training to select historically Black colleges and universities by the end of 2020.

Terik Tidwell, executive director at JCSU’s Smith Tech-Innovation Center, says the financial investment will be multi-faceted.

“For faculty, it will further research, curriculum development, and professional development. For students, it will enhance students’ career-readiness through experiential learning, internships and jobs, undergraduate research, and IBM certificates,” he said.

He added that the funding will enhance the institution’s technological infrastructure needs. Tidwell says it will also enhance outreach and workforce development programs focused in tech.

The IBM Skills Academy is a comprehensive, integrated program to prepare students for the workplace. Learning tracks address topics such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain, design thinking and quantum computing.

“We believe that in order to expand opportunity for diverse populations, we need a diverse talent pipeline of the next generation of tech leaders from HBCUs,” said Carla Grant Pickens, IBM’s chief global diversity and inclusion officer.

She continued, “Diversity and inclusion is what fuels innovation, and students from HBCUs will be positioned to play a significant part of what will drive innovations for the future.”

JSCU students will have more resources for Quantum education, which will allow them to work in the industries of the future. Some of those industries include artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity and data science. Tidwell said these areas of computing will require advanced knowledge and technical skills to solve very challenging problems.

“Black students should be looking into these emerging fields so they can prepare and compete for high-tech jobs, increase their earning potential and eventually launch growth-oriented companies that leverage these emerging technologies,” he said.

Tidwell explained that this is significant because, in addition to preparing for a career in technology, the opportunity will allow JCSU students to receive training and industry-recognized credentials from a global company.

“It will also strengthen our STEM programs over the future,” he added.

The IBM funded program will begin this fall.

Other HBCUs participating in the Skills Academy Academic Initiative include Clark Atlanta University, Fayetteville State University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Southern University System, Stillman College, Virginia State and West Virginia State University.

Janey Tate is QCity Metro’s multimedia reporter covering west Charlotte, culture and small business. The Miami native loves Erykah Badu, "Martin" and all things from the Black ‘90s and early 2000s...

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