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Microsoft, General Assembly Partner To Address AI Skills Gap

'As a technology company committed to driving innovation, we have a responsibility to help workers access the AI training they need to ensure they thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow,' says Jean-Philippe Courtois, Microsoft’s executive vice president and president of global sales, marketing and operations.

Microsoft is partnering with education provider General Assembly in an attempt to close skills gaps in the fast-growing fields of artificial intelligence, cloud and data engineering, machine learning and data science.

The goal is to facilitate 2,000 job changes for workers interested in moving into artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning roles in the first year of the partnership and train an additional 13,000 workers in the next three years to create a pool of AI workers.

Microsoft will join General Assembly’s AI Standards Board to help create industry-recognized AI skills standards, design a career framework and build an industry-recognized credential for AI skills in the next six months. The two companies also will develop AI training solutions for customers of Microsoft, which supports businesses in aerospace, manufacturing and other industries with its Azure public cloud platform, but finds that many workers aren’t sufficiently skilled to leverage its full capabilities.

“We want to leverage Microsoft and other industry leaders in AI to align aspects of our existing curriculum that serve students seeking to break into software engineering and data science careers, where significant demand for talent to support AI adoption exists,” said Ryan Fennerty, head of business development and partnerships at New York-based General Assembly. “In addition, we will do the same through our respective enterprise client offerings by re-skilling workers for core roles that underpin AI adoption.”

Key to that will be an AI Talent Network comprised of employers seeking talent in cloud and data engineering, machine learning and data science. Microsoft and General Assembly will establish the network to source candidates for hire and project-based AI work.

The companies cited a report by the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum that says a “fourth industrial revolution” is creating a “perfect storm” of business model change across industries that will result in new categories of jobs requiring new skill sets. “The Future of Jobs Report 2018,” published in September, estimates as many as 133 million new roles could be created by 2022 as a result of the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms.

“Four specific technological advances -- ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big data analytics and cloud technology -- are set to dominate the 2018–2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth,” the report states.

A representative for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft was not available for comment.

“As a technology company committed to driving innovation, we have a responsibility to help workers access the AI training they need to ensure they thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow,” Jean-Philippe Courtois, Microsoft’s executive vice president and president of global sales, marketing and operations, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to combine our industry and technical expertise with General Assembly to help close the skills gap and ensure businesses can maximize their potential in our AI-driven economy.”

The digital technology landscape is constantly evolving with technologies like AI, machine learning and automation, said Jeff Highley, vice president of technology and engineering services at Rackspace, a Windcrest, Texas-based managed cloud computing company

“As with any new technology, the learning curve is challenging, and the fast pace of innovation in these spaces makes it even harder for companies to keep up,” Highley said. “It is critical for all companies to up-skill their workers to not only take advantage of these new technologies, but also retain those employees who want to work with the latest and greatest technology.”

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