HR tech Number of the Day: AI education

As organizations strive to keep up with the rapid digitization accelerated by the pandemic, one thing is clear: Tech skills are more in demand than ever. Across industries, companies are competing for talent that is well-versed in everything from cloud to artificial intelligence–but supply remains low.

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According to a report from McKinsey, 87% of global executives are reporting a skills gap among their workforce, particularly in areas like data analytics, IT, and executive and talent management. With AI increasingly underpinning all of these facets of business operations and more, Intel and Dell Technologies are now partnering to help train the next generation of AI-fluent talent.

The organizations recently announced a major expansion of Intel’s AI for Workforce Program. The initiative launched two years ago as the nation’s first AI associate degree program, offered at one community college in Arizona. Now, the company is taking the program nationwide, to 18 institutions that educate 800,000 students, and plans are already underway to further expand the initiative to 50 more community colleges and vocational schools next year.

Enrollees can participate in either a certificate or associate degree program, with Dell providing technical and infrastructure expertise.

What it means for HR leaders

Despite increasing demand for AI skills in the workplace, few educational institutions have offered such training. According to a survey of higher education professionals by EdScoop, 73% report increasing demand on the part of employers for AI-savvy grads, yet more than 40% of those surveyed said their institution does not offer any programs or courses on AI.

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Carlos Contreras, senior director of AI and digital readiness at Intel, notes that a number of shifts over the last year–including record unemployment rates and an increasing reliance on technologies such as AI to power new fully digital workplaces–are driving up demand even quicker.

See also: Why building employee trust is the next frontier for AI in HR

“As AI technology rapidly accelerates across industries with new tools, technology and applications, it’s requiring workers to learn new skills,” he says. “This expanded program is designed to make high-tech, high-skilled careers more accessible for those entering the market, as well as provide opportunities for those exploring new careers.”

The Intel program is also specifically designed to make an AI education accessible to students of all backgrounds. Community colleges, Contreras says, have long attracted diverse student populations, and the AI for Workforce Program is specifically being rolled out at eight schools classified as Minority Serving Institutions.

And, he adds, no previous experience in or familiarity with AI is needed to enroll.

“We designed our program so that the first part is non-technical with no coding so more students can learn basic AI literacy, how AI technology works, ethical frameworks and different everyday life use cases,” he says.

In a statement, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger–who noted that he first developed his passion for tech while studying at a community college–called AI “one of the superpowers fueling innovation, economic growth, job creation and advancements across every aspect of society.”

“The next-generation workforce,” he said, “will need skills and training in AI to develop solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, and community colleges play a huge role in unleashing innovative thinking.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].