The project, called the IBM Academic Initiative, is an effort by IBM to support colleges and institutions that support open standards and open-source software, with free IBM software and discounted or free hardware systems, said Buell Duncan, vice president of ISV and developer relations at Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM.
The company will help schools train students for the new kinds of jobs the industry requires—including programming, architecture and certifications in various technologies—and will help ensure that schools have the most current curricula, he said.
"Today, were launching an initiative that we believe will reach millions of students," Duncan said. Under the program, IBM is offering "in-demand skills for an on-demand world," he said.
Duncan said the company has set a goal to reach 1,000 schools around the world but will start by signing up 250 by the years end.
The IBM Academic Initiative includes the IBM Scholars program, which provides training, software, hardware and course materials free to some schools. The company said more than 8,000 faculty members are already registered with the Scholars Portal, which is part of the program. Through the portal, more than 40 IBM software products are available for schools to use as part of their instructional infrastructure.
IBM also will "loan" equipment for virtual usage remotely, through its IBM Virtual Innovation Center, the company said.
Also, the company will assign a technical team to assess the schools academic programs regarding IT.
Among the U.S. schools involved in the initiatives pilot are Northface University, Texas State University, Indiana State University, Kennesaw University, University of Houston at Clear Lake, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, University of Texas at Austin, University of Wisconsin and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the company said.
H. Scott McKinley, CEO of Northface University in Salt Lake City, said he sees big benefits from the initiative, as the university needs help to keep its infrastructure and curriculum top-notch.
He called Northface "the finest university in the world for software developers, especially enterprise software developers."
McKinley said Northface graduates its students in 28 months of concentrated study in a setting similar to that of IT organizations. "Its designed to mirror the work world," he said.
Northface students, who go to school year-round, leave having developed 12 enterprise-level applications and having earned certifications for various technologies.
"Northface uses the entire suite of IBM Rational tools and DB2," McKinley said. "We are heavily modeling- and architecture-driven," he said.
"The industry is experiencing a severe shortage in quality and quantity of IT graduates," McKinley said. "We as a university have as our mission to close that skills gap."