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IBM fund retrains to fight U.S. job drain

Big Blue's CEO announces a $25 million fund dedicated to training business partners and employees who fear they could lose their jobs to overseas experts.

LAS VEGAS--IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano on Monday announced a $25 million fund dedicated to training Big Blue's employees and business partners, part of the company's efforts to make the U.S. technology industry more competitive globally.

The fund, called the Human Capital Alliance, aims to help IBM employees who seek more training out of concern that they could lose their jobs to technical experts overseas, according to the company. Palmisano announced the two-year fund at the company's PartnerWorld conference taking place here this week.

Palmisano said that a global marketplace for technology skills, such as software programming, is good for the economy overall. But he said that U.S. technology professionals need more help in gaining the latest skills to compete for jobs.

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"It is not appropriate for the American ethos to wish ill will on countries simply because they are trying to improve the standards of living of their people," Palmisano said. "At the same time, we can work together to re-skill people to move to (new technology) areas."

IBM will make the retraining money available to business partners as well. The company said it will try to place IBM employees who have been laid off with partners once they have been retrained.

Palmisano said that the fund will be an alternative to government programs, which are not effective.

"There are lots of government programs, but they train people for jobs that don't exist--in the past. This (fund) is for future jobs," he said.

Palmisano said the fund will focus on creating a bigger pool of professionals who are in demand, such as information technology architects, Linux experts, and hardware and software professionals specialized in open standards. IBM already has put about $1 billion into training employees, according to the company.


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Besides the need to boost employees' computing skills, Palmisano emphasized the company's "on-demand" initiative to transform how businesses use technology. The CEO said that fundamental changes in the computing industry demand that IBM and its network of partners change how they do business. In the past, providers foisted new technologies on customers without enough concern for the business benefits. In the future, technology companies need to improve their skills to better address business needs, he said.

Palmisano said IBM is fully committed to innovation, but it has shifted its focus to applying technology to meet customer problems.

"In this new era of computing, it's more about intellectual property and people than purely about technology," he said.