A new initiative to grow AI workforce

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has launched a program to expand and support community colleges in offering skills training that would lead to jobs in artificial intelligence (AI). AACC will lead the network with support from leading technology companies Intel and Dell Technologies.

“I am one of only a handful of women that work on the technical side of our operations,” said Gretchen Stewart, chief data scientist at Intel. “We are working to change that to 40% in the coming years but will need these programs at community colleges to ensure that we have a skilled and diverse talent pool of candidates to fill these critical technical jobs.”   

The program, announced on Thursday at AACC’s Workforce Development Institute, is an 18-month initiative to design and build artificial intelligence (AI) incubators across the country, using the expertise and industry connections of America’s community college system. The announcement follows the joint commitment of AACC, Intel and Dell Technologies to grow Intel’s AI for Workforce program from 18 states to 50 by 2023.

“We want to be partnered with community colleges in all 50 states,” Stewart said. “We recognize the ability of the community colleges to help us to achieve that goal.”

Rethinking how to hire

Dell officials noted that the company is rethinking how it hires employees.

“We have always required a bachelor’s degree as a minimum for applicants,” said Adrienne Garber, senior strategist for Dell Technologies. “We know now that there are skills sets, badges, certificates and associate degrees that are valuable, and that we need people with these skills working at Dell Technologies. This is a shift in our culture that is needed and we are excited that this partnership is with community colleges.”

Apply for the AACC AI Incubator Network

For colleges that choose to participate, AACC will support the implementation of the AACC AI Incubator Network. By joining the network, colleges will have the opportunity to participate in discussions about learning pathways, connect on strategic economic development opportunities, strategize on student engagement in AI programs, share resources for student AI projects between and among the participating colleges and gather the best practices from the field as identified by AACC, Intel, Dell Technologies and other industry-relevant partners.

The program will support colleges seeking to design and build an AI incubator as a physical laboratory on campus, on a virtual platform or as both in a hybridized model. Participating colleges will be eligible to apply for one of 10 12-month grants of $40,000 to build out their AI labs. The selections will be made based on criteria determined by AACC, Intel and Dell Technologies.

“AI has become an increasingly important focus for community colleges as providers of workforce education for multiple industries,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “Working together with peers and across sectors will enhance the ability of our colleges to advance and scale this curriculum across the nation to ensure that students earn the skills needed to fill these jobs and begin meaningful careers.”

Dell Technologies will provide technical expertise to the 10 selected schools to configure AI labs for teaching in-person, hybrid, and online students. The labs will provide students with more access to AI computing power, tools and resources, helping foster the skills needed for future jobs. In addition, the curriculum from the AI for Workforce program and taught in the AI labs will support courses on data analytics, computer vision, natural language processing, AI model training, coding, the societal impacts and ethics of AI technology, and more.

About the Author

Martha Parham
Dr. Martha Parham is senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.