Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Friday, June 5, 2020
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Universities work to close the AI skills gap 
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Universities are placing an increasing emphasis on programs that help students and working professionals develop skills in the technologies for artificial intelligence.

To understand the pressing need for data scientists and software developers skilled in the tools of artificial intelligence, you don’t have to read a lot of articles on the subject. You can simply read the boldface headlines:

  • The AI Skills Shortage
  • The AI Skills Gap
  • The AI Skills Crisis And How To Close The Gap

These headlines from recent articles pretty much say it all: Today’s businesses and public entities are facing a serious skills gap on the road to AI-driven products and processes. Organizations of all sizes want to get into the AI game, but they are held back by a lack of players.

This isn’t just an anecdotal view; it’s a view that is underscored by industry research. For example, a study conducted by the Vanson Bourne research firm, on behalf of SnapLogic, found that 93 percent of US and UK organizations consider AI to be a business priority and have projects planned or already in production, yet more than half of them don’t have the skilled AI talent they need to get the job done. The companies in the firm’s survey cited a lack of skilled talent as the No. 1 barrier to their AI initiatives.[1]

And this is where academia enters the AI picture. Universities and other educational enterprises around the world have taken note of the need for AI specialists and have launched programs to help both traditional students and working professionals cultivate skills in machine learning, deep learning and other AI techniques.

These programs have become so common that various publications and education-focused organizations now publish lists of the top AI college. For example, check out U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best AI programs. (Spoiler alert: The magazine says the Top 5 colleges for AI are Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California — Berkeley, and University of Washington.)

The leader of this pack — Carnegie Mellon — broke new ground in 2018 when it launched the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in artificial intelligence.[2] The curriculum includes coursework in computer science, math, statistics, computational modeling, machine learning and symbolic computation. And because Carnegie Mellon is devoted to AI for social good, students also take courses in ethics and social responsibility.

Universities are also making AI courses available online. Harvard University, for example, is currently offering a free online course in machine learning. In this course, which is part of Harvard’s Professional Certificate Program in Data Science, students learn popular machine learning algorithms, principal component analysis, and regularization by building a movie recommendation system. A recent count showed that nearly 100,000 students had enrolled in the course. (Learn more at Harvard Data Science: Machine Learning.)

University-business partnerships expand

In a parallel trend, many AI training programs are taking the form of university-business partnerships. This is the case at the Dell Technologies HPC & AI Center of Excellence at the University of Pisa. In partnership with the Intel® AI Academy, the University of Pisa has offered workshops that cover topics like AI from the data center to the edge, distributed deep learning with Nauta (an opensource, deep learning training platform), and distributed AI with the Ray Framework (a high performance distributed execution framework).

Combining university research and expertise, industrial demands, and the center’s HPC capabilities, BioBeats ─ a University of Pisa spin-off start-up ─ uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze users’ heartbeats and create adaptive music. The company’s Hear and Now app teaches breathing exercises that help users relax. The app is based on clinically validated stress-reducing and mindfulness practices.

In another example of a business-education partnership, Microsoft® has teamed with global education provider General Assembly (GA) on an initiative focused on closing the skills gaps in the fields of AI, machine learning, data science, cloud and data engineering, and more. This initiative will create standards and credentials for AI skills, upskill and reskill 15,000 workers by 2022, and create a pool of AI talent for the global workforce.[3]

Key takeaways

As the digital world rushes forward, there is a huge and growing demand for people who have skills in the technologies for artificial intelligence. There simply aren’t enough of these people in the workforce, and this skills gap is one of the big barriers to the development of AI-driven products and processes.

But — the good news — universities and educational programs, along with their business partners, have stepped up to the plate and are working actively to help close this skills gap.

Ready to get started?

The Intel AI Academy offers free courses in AI for software developers, data scientists and students. These lessons cover AI topics and explore tools and optimized libraries that take advantage of Intel® processors inside Dell Technologies’ PowerEdge servers and Precision workstations. Learn more at Intel AI Academy: AI Courses and read more about the Dell | Intel Competence Centre for Cloud and High Performance Computing at the University of Pisa.

Have an AI project in mind? Visit your local university HPC center, and/or a Dell Technologies Customer Solution Center for a free planning session.


[1] SnapLogic, “AI Skills — 93% of Organizations Committed to AI but Skills Shortage Poses Considerable Challenge,” May 20, 2019.

[2] Carnegie Mellon, “B.S. in Artificial Intelligence,” accessed February 10, 2020.

[3] Microsoft, “Microsoft and General Assembly launch partnership to close the global AI skills gap,” May 17, 2019.

 

 

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