Maricopa Community Colleges to offer nation’s first Intel-designed AI degree

In the first collaboration of its kind, Intel is teaming up with the Maricopa County Community College District — the largest community college district in the nation — to produce workers  trained in artificial intelligence (AI) skills to meet a growing demand in Arizona.  

Together they are launching the nation’s first Intel-designed AI certificate and associate degree program. It will enable tens of thousands of students to land careers in high-tech, healthcare, automotive, industrial and aerospace fields, said the district’s interim chancellor, Dr. Steven R. Gonzales. 

“This program will train our students for a competitive workforce, strengthen Arizona’s economy as well as help close the opportunity gap we see across the state and be a model for educational institutions across the nation,” Gonzales said. 

Pilot courses slated for fall kickoff   

The community college district will launch the first two courses in the Artificial Intelligence and Machine-learning program virtually as soon as Fall 2020. By January 2021, it plans to have five courses deployed for the Spring 2021 semester. 

As physical distancing requirements are lifted, and the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic lessen, the new program will begin in-person at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale. It then will be expanded to other campuses.

Students will learn fundamental skills such as data collection, AI model training, coding and exploration of AI technology’s societal impact. 

The courses have been developed by the college’s faculty and Intel leaders based on Intel software and tools such as the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO Toolkit and Intel Python. Intel is also contributing technical advice, faculty training, summer internships and Intel mentors for both students and faculty members. 

Upon completion, the college district will offer an associate degree in artificial intelligence that can be transferred to a four-year college.

Artificial Intelligence skills one of top five most in demand 

Today’s AI technology is driving discoveries and technology to add value to people’s lives and work. It’s finding water on the moon, speeding critical medical diagnoses, and identifying product defects faster, college and Intel officials aid. 

Occupations using AI skills include: business analyst, java developer, data engineer, marketing manager, health manager, engineer, product manager, developer, front end developer, architect, and more.  

Top employers requesting these skills are corporations like Intel, IBM, Wells Fargo, Deloitte and American Express.

Recent studies show the demand for AI is growing exponentially. A 2020 LinkedIn report notes that AI skills are one of the top five most in-demand hard skills. 

Arizona to see more than 20,000 AI jobs this year 

The local demand for AI talent is increasing as well in Maricopa County and the state. Careers are projected to grow faster than the average rate for all employment over the next decade, district officials said. 

Research done by MCCCD Workforce and Economic Development Office estimates an increase of 22.4 percent for these roles by 2029 according to Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.

This year, Arizona is expected to see 21,535 AI employment opportunities — 6 percent above the national average, they said. 

Diverse population to benefit industry  

One of the reasons Intel chose the college district, which has 10 campuses and more than 200,000 students, is to tap into its diverse population, said Gregory Bryan, Intel’s executive vice president and general manager of the Client Computing Group.

“We strongly believe AI technology should be shaped by many voices representing different experiences and backgrounds,” Bryant said. “Community colleges offer the opportunity to expand and diversify AI since they attract a diverse array of students with a variety of backgrounds and expertise.”

Arizona Commerce Authority gives $100,000 grant to the program 

As the state’s leading economic development organization, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) is providing marketing and workforce connectivity strategies to support the program.

“Arizona has become a hub for innovation and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, and this initiative will enhance our state’s competitiveness in the global market,” said Sandra Watson, ACA president and CEO. “Ensuring companies have access to talent with AI skills is key to Arizona’s continued economic success.”

Intel committed to train 1 million developers worldwide

The new AI program at MCCD expands on the Intel AI for Youth program that provides AI curriculum and resources to over 100,000 high school and vocational students in nine countries. 

Intel recently collaborated with Udacity to create the Intel Edge AI for IoT Developers Nanodegree Program aimed at training 1 million developers.

Both are part of the company’s commitment to expand digital readiness to reach 30 million people in 30,000 institutions in 30 countries.

Victoria Harker

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