HomeData AnalyticsAWS stumps up $10m to plug industrial AI skills gap, make ML jobs accessible to all

AWS stumps up $10m to plug industrial AI skills gap, make ML jobs accessible to all

As a counterpoint to the drive towards lights-out industrial automation, and its own role in it as supplier of sundry Industry 4.0 componentry – including, as of last week, private 5G pyrotechnics and an expanded IoT arsenal – Amazon Web Services (AWS) is taking steps to train and retrain the industrial workforce, in order to offset Industry 3.0 losses against new Industry 4.0 hires. 

Announced last week at its annual AWS re:Invent shindig, the firm said it has established a new $10 million ML scholarship fund for “anyone interested in learning and experimenting with the technology”. The objective, it said, is to make machine learning (ML) more accessible, and to “prepare underrepresented and underserved students globally for careers in ML”. AWS is partnering with Intel on the initiative.

Cynically, perhaps simplistically, the move sounds like one to make Industry 4.0 a ‘blue collar’ trade, just as the Industry 4.0 movement at large prepares to wipe out traditional blue-collar jobs. Logic says this new wave of industrial automation – powered by deterministic networks, dynamic compute, and smarter analytics – will account for manual jobs in factories and plants first.

The new ‘AI & ML Scholarship’ from AWS will use the firm’s own DeepRacer and new DeepRacer Student League to teach students foundational ML concepts, offering “hands-on experience” training ML models for autonomous race cars and educational content around ML fundamentals. The DeepRacer league lets ML students and hobbyists build ML models with a fully autonomous 1/18th scale race car.

Besides, AWS has said it is offering a “no-cost” version of Amazon SageMaker, called SageMaker Studio Lab, to help customers build, train, and deploy ML models. The provision removes the need to have an AWS account; users can sign up on a web browser, and access an ML development environment with 15 gigabytes of storage, 12 hours of CPU, and four hours of GPU compute. They can export projects to SageMaker Studio to deploy on AWS. 

Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of ML at AWS, said: “The two initiatives are designed to open up educational opportunities in ML to make it more widely accessible. ML will be one of the most transformational technologies of this generation. If we are going to unlock [its] full potential… to tackle some of the world’s most challenging problems, we need the best minds entering the field from all backgrounds and walks of life.”

The World Economic Forum says Industry 4.0 will create 97 million new tech jobs by 2025, including in AI and ML. AWS stated: “While the job opportunities in technology are growing, diversity is lagging behind in science and technology careers. Making educational resources available to anyone interested in technology is critical to encouraging a more robust, diverse pipeline of people in artificial intelligence and machine learning careers.” 

The $10 million ML fund will hand 2,000 students from “underrepresented and underserved” communities a specialist “nanodegree” scholarship in AI programming with Python with California-based Udacity. Graduates will be invited to take a technical assessment, and the 500 highest-scorers will gain a place on a second Udacity course, focused on ML engineering. They will also have access to mentorship opportunities from tenured Amazon and Intel experts.

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