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IBM interview: What IBM is doing to make its workforce more diverse

IBM is beginning a new drive to encourage young people from diverse backgrounds into a career in tech. In this interview, IBM share some insights into what they do and why it might appeal to you – and also tell us more about what they’re doing to diversify their workforce.

'If you have a passion for business and technology, IBM want you!'

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Who are IBM and what do you do?

IBM is a technology company, helping modernise the world. IBM was founded over 100 years ago, and after going through a history of hardware (e.g. making computers), IBM has moved into the world of AI and Cloud, helping industries from healthcare to sport adapt and solve new problems in these uncertain times.

IBM’s technology supports industries across the globe, allowing them to become more efficient, agile and customer centric.

IBM are everywhere, you just don’t see us; we were behind the Apollo 11 mission, we’re at Wimbledon and even the Grammys, all to provide a better experience for you. We are the largest technology employer in the world. We employ 366,000 IBMers serving clients in 170 countries.

Why should secondary students be thinking about a career at IBM?

Young IBM employees from a variety of backgrounds posing for photo
Young IBMers taking part in the Black in Tech campaign

IBM offers Apprenticeships in a range of fields to kickstart your career in technology, or any other discipline you want to pursue! You will get lots of exposure to set you up for a lifelong career. In addition to the day job there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in social activities and volunteering with other apprentices, students and graduates. If you’re not sure whether university or an apprenticeship is right for you, we also have degree apprenticeships, where you can work alongside gaining a degree!

What do you think are the main barriers to participation in tech for people from diverse backgrounds?

We believe the main barrier to participate in tech for people from diverse backgrounds is the lack of diverse representation they see from tech companies. We understand the importance of seeing someone that looks like you in your workspace and how that plays a big role in deciding your future company.

What is IBM doing to overcome those barriers?

IBM is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, colour, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, pregnancy, disability, age, or any other characteristic. We are proud to showcase our diverse IBMers, and that’s why we are recognised for our diversity, winning awards both for individual IBMers, where recently 3 of our IBMers were finalists in the BAME Apprenticeship awards and IBM as a whole where IBM scored 100% for the 18th year in the "Human Rights Campaign Foundation" for the "Best Places to work for the LGBTQ community". We want to showcase our diverse IBMers, and through LinkedIn, we’ve been sharing our IBMers stories weekly. We believe in allyship, and through our Be Equal campaign, we listen, educate and speak up on issues surrounding diversity. Find out more about Be Equal here.

What is IBM doing to include people from a range of different backgrounds?

At IBM we have so many groups, campaigns and communities that you can join that is centred around diversity and inclusion. 

We have Business Resource Groups which is a collection of different communities that you can join at IBM. They are based on enhancing career development, promoting an inclusive work environment, and generating business value through internal and external activities. 

IGNITE and PTech are also two of many schemes that encourage the progression of young people from other backgrounds to not only join the team, but also offer the support to develop students’ skills and set them up for a better chance when leaving school. 

What is Ignite?

Two women at a desk with a laptop
IBM have many groups, campaigns and communities dedicated
to diversity and inclusion

The Ignite Scheme is part of the national "Movement to Work" programme - a voluntary collaboration of UK employers committed to tackling youth unemployment through provision of high-quality vocational training and work experience opportunities for young people. IBM is a proud supporter and partner in this initiative. Find out more here.

What is PTECH?

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) are innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college and career. Find out more here.

Since the BLM Movement, IBM have launched the first ever Foundation BAME Community, celebrating each others differences. We also won Pearsons BAME Apprenticeship Award with three of our apprentices as finalists. 

How can young people from different backgrounds learn more about the opportunities on offer at IBM?

Follow our social media handles and all opportunities can be found over on our website.

We know that IBM offer apprenticeships as a way for school and college leavers to train for a high-skilled career in the tech industry. Tell us a bit about IBM’s apprenticeship programme.

Depending on what you are interested in, there are different types of apprenticeships from Sales to Technical. 

Tara Sura, an IBM apprentice talks about her experience:

"Being on the Junior Management Consultancy apprenticeship I have been able to learn the fundamentals of consulting, whilst developing my technical skills at the same time. I’ve had the opportunity to learn all about the end-to-end client engagement process whilst on real life client projects, working with some incredible businesses and expanding my network. 

The idea that you have to be technical to apply for a tech company couldn’t be further from the truth, unless of course you want to take a technical path. As long as you are willing to learn, adaptable and curious you will be able to pick the rest up through all of the training you will receive as an IBM apprentice. I personally come from a Business and Legal background and since being at IBM I have taken on Defect Management and Project Management roles (as an apprentice!)"

Do you have to have top grades to get onto IBM’s apprenticeship programme?

The entry requirements are; five GCSEs grade 4-9 including maths and English language. You will also need to have completed further education or equivalent. You don’t need to be studying a technical A-Level or equivalent, we accept all subject backgrounds.

What is the application like? What would you say to students who are worried by the idea of interviews and assessments?

IBMers posing for photo
IBM have won multiple awards for improving the diversity of
their workforce 

The application process consists of the initial application online, assessment testing, application form, an exploration centre (assessment centre) and a final interview. Head over to our website to find out more about the process.

It’s understandable to be nervous about doing something that you may have never done before, but just remember that interviews are there to get to know you and who knows you better than you do? No one is trying to catch you out, this is an opportunity for you to show us your skills and interests, whilst being able to ask any questions that you may have too. 

IBM is a tech company. Are there opportunities for students specialising in arts and humanities subjects at GCSE and A-level?

IBM is not just for those with a technical background. With over 350,000 employees globally, we have opportunities for those specialising in non technical subjects at school. All that you need to be an IBMer is have a passion for business and technology and if you have that, we want you!

Find out more about opportunities you can apply for at IBM on their website.