Former senior Lenovo and IBM executive Tom Looney is driving apprenticeship programs at Wake Tech, hoping to provide more opportunities for the community college’s students as well as workers to be hired by Triangle employers needing skilled talent.

In the second part of WRAL TechWire’s exclusive Q&A interview, Looney, who is chair of the board of trustees at Wake Tech, talks about the benefits of apprenticeships in these days of many IT-related jobs going unfilled due to lack of trained workers.

  • Apprenticeships are gathering momentum as a hiring solution as shown by the Trump Administration’s embrace of Wisconsin’s program to boost its program. Why is interest in apprenticeships growing?

Apprenticeships are the triple bottom line. They provide an education, business experience and a paid position which all lead to a successful career. The lines in education are blurring requiring speed and innovation at all levels. The definition of success is no longer a four-year degree. We are meeting the changing needs of industry and our students.

  • Do you believe apprenticeships can help solve the growing problem of unfilled job openings for skilled workers?

There must be a comprehensive set of offerings specific to the needs of different industries. This includes apprenticeships, certifications, mentoring programs, early college, associate degrees as well as four year degrees. The key is integrating industry into the fabric of your education system.

Wake Tech does this today with their Advisory Councils. I believe everything starts with listening to your customers and keeping your eye on new emerging industries while staying abreast of the latest technology available to deliver education.

IBM is very committed to partnering with North Carolina to launch a P Tech High School. P Tech High School’s provides IBM mentors for each student, places them first in line for new jobs at IBM and the students graduate with an associates degree. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty refers to this as new collar jobs. This is another great example of business owning the workforce pipeline.

  • Are you getting interest from other companies about Wake Tech interns? If so, how can you meet the demand that appears to be growing?

We have significant interest from many tech firms in joining our internship programs and advisory councils. We are partnering with firms such as IBM and SAS on high demand programs such as cyber security and data analytics and will be launching a coding boot camp later on this summer.

Recently, we were awarded a $3M grant along with IBM and SAS to develop cyber security training. We’re also partnering with Cisco and NetApp to provide the latest technologies and valuable internship opportunities for Wake Tech students, and ABB, which recently donated a YuMi robot, to help launch a Collaborative Robotics program.

Success is breeding success in North Carolina! We are setting the gold standard for workforce development in our country.

More coverage:

  • Read part one of our interview
  • Read about IBM partnering with Wake Tech
  • And read more about apprentices hired at Lenovo
  • NCSU economist Dr. Mike Walden talks about value of apprenticeships