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Moving the AI diversity dial: course aims to boost womens’ participation

Part-funded, part-time programme covers core fundamentals needed to ramp up AI skills

CPD Certificate in Foundations of Artificial Intelligence programme was developed to address the lack of AI talent generally, as well the lack of gender and minority diversity in AI education in Ireland. Photograph: iStock

CPD Certificate in Foundations of Artificial Intelligence programme was developed to address the lack of AI talent generally, as well the lack of gender and minority diversity in AI education in Ireland. Photograph: iStock

 

The CPD Certificate in Foundations of Artificial Intelligence was designed by Women in AI, a non-profit organisation working towards gender-inclusive AI that benefits global society, in conjunction with Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet, Technology University Dublin and Krisolis, a female-led Irish analytics business.

The programme was developed to address the lack of AI talent generally, as well the lack of gender and minority diversity in AI education in Ireland. It is aimed at learners who have an interest in gaining the foundational skills and knowledge to enter a career as an AI specialist or to continue into further education in AI.

“The course aims to be inclusive by attracting and being open to all, regardless of gender, age and background,” says Alessandra Sala, director of data science and artificial intelligence at Shutterstock, and Women in AI Ireland country ambassador.

“We know that [the] upskilling of our workforce is going to be essential to help businesses meet the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation,” she adds. “But upskilling and reskilling can be intimidating, and expensive. Add a full-time job and trying to maintain work-life balance with that, and there are a lot of barriers. We’ve done our best to take those barriers into account to make the programme a truly accessible learning experience. It’s part-time, part-funded and fully supported by a team who really understand the challenges. It is our hope that this course allows those with the interest and aptitude for entering the AI talent pipeline to make the move, regardless of gender, age and background.”

Part-funding

The aim is to improve diversity in the field. “To get on the programme, learners do not need to have a degree in a cognate discipline or be working in the area, they just need to show an interest in AI and a commitment to applying themselves to the programme,” Sala points out.

“Part-funding helps with the costs, which can be prohibitive. We run the classes online and in the evenings so it is convenient for people to attend, particularly those who may be working or have families. We also make class recordings available online so learners can catch up if they can’t make the live class. We have an online learning portal, giving students access to a variety of resources to assist them throughout the programme. We make sure that all our learners feel supported through one-to-one mentoring sessions and drop-in technical support clinics – a helping hand is never far away. We see this course as a starting point for learners, to get them on the first rung of the ladder of their AI journey.”

The Certificate in Foundations of AI programme covers the core fundamentals required to ramp up AI skills. The programme has been crafted to combine theory with real-life applications, including case studies as well as overviews of AI tools and their uses. Along with covering the basics of AI and its uses, learners explore the tools and technologies used and get hands-on experience of skills such as data visualisation and Python programming.

Projects

Participants also learn how to design and run AI projects using an agile framework, develop statistical and machine learning solutions, and create effective data visualisations.

In addition, the course covers ethical considerations and best practice in AI. There are frequent one-to-one mentoring sessions with a final capstone project where students can apply all their acquired skills.

While the programme is aimed at addressing diversity in the talent pipeline, it is open to everyone with an interest in pursuing a career in AI. “The programme is fully inclusive, and all are welcome,” says Sala. “The programme was first launched on November 20th, 2020, and is now coming to the end of its second run. The participation of women has exceeded expectations.”

The next three-month programme starts on September 13th, 2021 and costs €600. Individuals can register their interest by submitting their CV to Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet. Places are limited to 40 but it is hoped another course will begin in January 2022.