Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD, joined Microsoft today as it launched an ambitious and far reaching, national Artificial Intelligence (AI) skilling programme. The programme is the central part of Microsoft’s plan to ‘Skill Up Ireland’ – helping to ensure that every person and organisation is ready and equipped for an AI future.
According to Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index, published in June 2023, AI is expected to create a whole new way of working. 4 in 10 (42%) survey respondents said they spend too much time searching for the right data. 1 in 5 (21%) workers reported using Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in their job, while of those who do not use AI (67%), almost 1 in 4 say they would be interested in doing so. The same report identified skills availability as the most important obstacle to the adoption of AI.
All trends indicate that AI is becoming more prolific in the workplace, yet employees don’t feel ready to take advantage of the technology. To address this challenge, Microsoft has designed a National AI skilling programme rooted in providing people of all ages, experiences and ambitions with the opportunity to develop their AI fluency and skills for an AI future. The programme includes a range of AI learning opportunities for young people in primary and post-primary education, as well as courses for graduates and mid-career professionals looking to upskill and specialise in AI.
As part of today’s announcement and its commitment to ‘Skill Up Ireland’, Microsoft announced the details of three new programmes that are now available, which provide access to industry recognised certificates for adult learners, including in Generative AI, and Microsoft Dream Space certificates for student learners.
The first of the new initiatives announced by Microsoft today is a bespoke 6-week “Introduction to AI” course that will be delivered through live virtual sessions. The free course is available to anyone over 18 and is designed to help equip those with little or no understanding of AI with the foundational knowledge, skills and competencies they need to engage more confidently with the current and emerging applications of AI. Learners who complete the course will receive a digital badge and they can also take an exam and earn a Professional Certificate upon passing.
The second initiative announced today is ‘Skills for Jobs’ which has been designed to help graduates and those currently in the workplace to advance their digital and AI skills so they can participate fully in an AI-enabled economy. The initiative offers new courses and provides access to eight Professional Certificates to help people learn the foundational skills and relevant hard and soft skills needed for in-demand tech and tech-enabled jobs. Within the offering there is a dedicated AI learning pathway where learners can improve their AI fluency and achieve a Professional Certificate in Generative AI. This programme will be delivered in partnership with Fastrack into Information Technology.
Finally, as part of its commitment to the next generation, the company also announced the expansion of the Microsoft Dream Space digital skills offering for primary and post-primary students. Every student now engaging with Dream Space will learn about the fundamentals of AI. This will cover content that looks at how it is created to where it applies in their everyday lives and the opportunities and challenges that come with it including ethical and responsible AI. In addition, early next year a new series of Dream Space TV with lessons created to ensure AI literacy will be made available to almost 1,000,000 students, as well as their teachers, across the island of Ireland. Dream Space certificates will be issued to students who complete the lesson series.
Microsoft’s focus on AI skilling and the new programmes announced today align fully with the Government’s National AI Strategy ‘AI – Here for Good’ which aims to expand access to courses that educate the general public about AI as well as providing AI upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those in the workforce.
Welcoming the announcement, Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Dara Calleary TD, said: “The use and deployment of AI can bring with it huge benefits and efficiencies for society and the economy, but if we are to seize those opportunities, we must be prepared for them and a key part of that is education and upskilling. This Government recognises how critical it is for government, industry and the education sector to work closely together to rapidly expand access to digital and AI skills.
“I commend Microsoft for playing their part in ensuring that we are building public awareness and informed decision making in order to use AI for our collective good. In particular, the bespoke “Introduction to AI” course is a very welcome contribution to wider digital literacy and digital skills efforts. By encouraging a lifelong learning approach to AI skilling, we can realise the ambition of our National AI Strategy and work towards achieving our goal of 75% of businesses using AI by 2030.”
Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD said: “I welcome the announcement from Microsoft today. It is an excellent complement to the raft of AI upskilling and reskilling initiatives under way in Higher and Further Education and will help us continue to hit our targets under the National Digital Strategy and EU Digital Decade to 2030.”
James O’Connor, Microsoft Ireland Site Leader and Vice-President Microsoft Global Operations Service Centre, said: “AI offers tremendous potential to empower workers, people and communities across Ireland – but only if everyone, everywhere has the skills to use it. With the World Economic Forum estimating that 60% of all employees will need reskilling by 2027, it’s vital that industry play its part in helping the current and future generations to succeed in an AI era.
“At Microsoft we believe that AI-enabled innovation will generate economic and societal opportunities for communities and economies right across the globe and here in Ireland we must be ready to take advantage of this opportunity. The ability to work alongside and utilise AI technology effectively and ethically in the workplace is becoming an essential skill for many jobs.
“By rolling out our new AI learning programmes, we are empowering people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences to gain the analytical, creative thinking and technical skills that are necessary to participate fully in an AI-enabled economy. Through these efforts and our significant investment in skills more broadly we want to play our part in helping to Skill-Up Ireland for an exciting AI future.”
To learn more about Microsoft’s ambition to Skill Up Ireland and the many skills training initiatives they’re providing, including the new national AI skilling programme, visit: aka.ms/SkillUpIreland.
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