As we all know, mentoring, whether formal or informal, has been around for centuries. Today, it's not unusual to hear of engineers and scientists regularly participating in classes in their school districts to help promote the study of science and math. Other professionals not involved in structured mentoring programs often make guest appearances at their local schools to encourage students to pursue a technical education.
Always a leader, IBM has taken mentoring to an entirely new plateau. Not really mentoring, IBM's new Transition to Teaching• program, announced in mid-September, is targeted at addressing the critical shortage of math and science teachers in our school systems. IBM is enabling experienced employees who want to teach upon retirement to become fully accredited teachers in their local schools.
Transition to Teaching will begin as a pilot program with about 100 IBM employees from around the United States. While still employed, participants will take online courses and traditional classes as well as engage in online mentoring with partner colleges and school districts. In addition, these candidates will have up to three months of classroom teaching to fulfill the requirements for state certification. During this time, IBM will reimburse participants up to $15,000 for tuition and pay stipends.
The success of the program virtually is assured because of the large number of talented people who don't want to stop contributing after they retire. As stated by Stanley Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation, in a recent press release, Many of our experienced employees have math and science backgrounds and have made it clear that when they are ready to leave IBM they aren t ready to stop contributing. They want to continue working in positions that offer them the opportunity to give back to society in an extremely meaningful way. Transferring their skills from IBM to the classroom is a natural for many.
Although quite an undertaking, IBM is to be commended for initiating such a worthwhile program. Hopefully, other companies in the industry will follow suit. Of course, a salary along with time off for the employee might be difficult to justify in all but companies with a large, mature engineering population. However, smaller companies with fewer experienced employees should be able to tailor a program that is not too expensive for them and allows talented engineers the opportunity to contribute something back to the community.