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Intel’s AI for Workforce Program Brings AI Education to Community Colleges Across the U.S.

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By Carlos Contreras, AI and Digital Readiness Director, Intel

CarlosContreras.jpgThe artificial intelligence (AI) field is booming, and as a country, developing an AI workforce is critical to remaining globally competitive. Recent studies show the demand for AI skills among employers is likely to grow significantly and drive a need for workers to learn new technical skills across industries. Whether it is healthcare, automotive, manufacturing or finance, AI skills are becoming essential. However, since this technology is nascent, access to AI education has been limited to advanced technical courses in four-year institutions.

That’s why we developed the Intel AI for Workforce Program, which is designed to collaborate with college leadership to help institutions define AI program implementation. Through the program, which was launched in 2020 in partnership with the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) and with support from the State of Arizona, Intel is providing over 200 hours of AI instructional material to college professors to lead curriculum development and instruction. This material is used to build out courses, certificates and degrees in AI, and develop what would become the first-ever AI for Workforce degree and certificate programs.

Following the successful launch of the MCCCD AI degree program in 2020, Intel saw the opportunity to increase the impact of the AI for Workforce Program and expand to more community colleges across the country. Since launching in Arizona, AI for Workforce has expanded to 18 more schools in 11 other states, including New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, California, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, and Arizona. These 18 schools serve a total of 800,000 students, with eight institutions classified as Minority Serving Institutions. What has also been impressive is the collaboration between the institutions to learn from each other.
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Intel chose to partner with community colleges because we believe AI technology should be shaped by a diverse set of voices and experiences. Lack of access to AI education at this level is leaving many students without opportunities to develop the skills needed to enter the AI workforce. Community colleges account for an estimated 44% of the country’s total undergraduate student population and attract a diverse student population, making them an ideal incubator to train an AI workforce. On a national basis, data from the American Association of Community Colleges show that 57% of community college students are women, 27% identify as Hispanic, 13% as Black, and 6% as Asian/Pacific Islander. In addition, 29% of community college students report that they are the first in their family to attend college.

On the institution side, we know that community colleges are interested in incorporating AI programs. A recent EdScoop survey of 246 educators, administrators and IT decision-makers in higher education shows that:

  • 73% of educators report an increasing demand by employers for graduates with AI-related skills.

  • 42% of community colleges do not currently offer specific courses or programs in AI.

  • 52% of community college educators say the biggest obstacle to providing AI instruction is a lack of faculty with the right expertise.

Following the launch of the AI for Workforce program, the participating institutions have impressively collaborated to learn from each other. MCCCD subject matter experts, faculty and administrators have been valued resources for the other community colleges, who were grateful to have access to Intel’s instructor training and MCCCD experience.

I have had the pleasure of working with representatives from MCCCD and other community colleges across the country to expand access to AI education. Our partnerships are enabling colleges to refurbish buildings to house programs and serve as AI labs, to procure the computing technologies necessary for students to hone their AI programming skills with help from Dell, and even to collaborate with local businesses in their regions to identify new job and internship opportunities for degree and certificate recipients. I know that the talent, initiative, and leadership exist at our community colleges to create the opportunity for their students to acquire AI skills and for the local industry to have access to skilled AI talent. For Intel, the goal of the program is to prepare and train the AI workforce of the future.

These are the same goals that are contained in the Endless Frontier Act section of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The Endless Frontier focus on funding innovative programs that target the development, commercialization, and training of the U.S. workforce in emerging technologies by incentivizing industry, NGO and education collaboration is spot on. We look forward to continuing to provide resources and search for new opportunities to grow U.S. innovation in the future.

To learn more about MCCCD and the other community colleges taking part in AI for Workforce, check out the stories on our website.