IBM sets up fund for displaced workers

IBM will create a $25m, two-year training fund to assist employees who fear their that jobs are at risk of being shipped away to...

IBM will create a $25m, two-year training fund to assist employees who fear their that jobs are at risk of being shipped away to lower-cost locations, said company executives at IBM's PartnerWorld conference.

The growing clamour in the US and the UK about jobs lost to outsourcing unnecessarily begrudges the employment gains of "countries that are simply trying to improve the standards of living of their people", IBM chairman and chief executive officer Sam Palmisano said during a keynote address at the conference in Las Vegas.

The fund, called the Human Capital Alliance, will help workers in positions likely to be affected by the outsourcing trend to retrain for new jobs, ideally with IBM or one of its business partners, according to IBM spokesman Clint Roswell.

At its current budget size, the Human Capital Alliance won't be a large programme, but Roswell estimated that it could be used to aid several thousand employees. Its scope will be global, but its aim will be to assist employees in developed countries, including the US and the UK. The fund's potential uses also include relocation and placement costs.

IBM said it will work with its business partners to determine fields in which employees should be retrained. Technologies the company considers strategic include Linux, web services and business transformation consulting. Roswell cited data entry and legacy application development as examples of areas out of which IBM would seek to move its employees.

IBM has an uneasy relationship with the outsourcing issue.It speaks openly about the savings it has seen from outsourcing some manufacturing work, and it encourages other companies to outsource IT work to specialists like IBM.

At the same time, IBM is eager not to be seen as moving jobs out of the US to developing countries as a cost-cutting move. When corporate documents leaked last year suggesting that executives were pursuing such a strategy, IBM officials insisted that expansions in its workforce in places such as India and China would not come at the expense of jobs elsewhere.

Last month, IBM said it is in the process of hiring 15,000 new employees worldwide.

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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