New AI workforce programme to train up to 2,000 students to implement technology

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing (third from right) interacting with ITE students during his tour at ITE College Central on Jan 19, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - A programme has been launched at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to train students to plug workforce gaps when artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a mainstay here.

From April, close to 400 ITE students will be trained to apply and integrate AI systems under a partnership between ITE and global technology firm Nvidia signed on Wednesday (Jan 19).

They will be equipped with industry experience in implementing AI systems, which are crucial to Singapore's goal of transforming its economy with the technology by 2030, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing at the signing of the partnership agreement on Wednesday.

Mr Greg Chew, deputy director of the School of Electronics & Info-Comm Technology at ITE College Central, said the partnership is expected to benefit up to about 2,000 students in the next three years.

Under the AI Workforce Readiness Programme, these students will meet the growing demand for skilled workers to adopt AI systems, said Mr Chan.

He noted that a wide spectrum of skill sets and job roles are necessary to achieve Singapore's national AI strategy, which "cannot be fulfilled by a single pipeline of university graduates".

These range from "tech-heavy roles" focused on more complex functions and innovation to jobs that operate AI, such as digital marketing executives, where skills such as data analytics are important, he said.

Said Mr Chan: "There is a growing range of job roles required to deploy and integrate AI systems. Examples include business analysts and AI translators, user experience designers, quality assurance managers and marketing analysts.

"Our polytechnics and ITE provide an important source of talent for these roles."

He added that students under the programme can add value to ITE's local industry partners in sectors such as engineering, logistics, retail and manufacturing - industries well-placed for AI adoption.

Under the agreement, ITE will also launch its first AI training facility equipped with Nvidia's supercomputing platform by the first quarter of this year.

Founded nearly 30 years ago in California, the tech firm is known for its graphics cards used by gamers worldwide.

Its computing platform will help to enable the fast development, deployment and enhancement of AI models for innovations such as driverless cars and cyber security.

ITE chief executive Low Khah Gek said the institute is looking to help more than 4,500 companies offering internships to ITE students and another 450 companies taking on ITE trainees to tap AI-enabled solutions from Nvidia's network of local start-ups.

She said students under the programme will be involved in the development process and apply their AI skills in a real-world context, while staff at these companies will be trained to manage these AI applications.

(From left) ITE chairman Andrew Chong, Nvidia senior director Dennis Ang, ITE CEO Low Khah Gek, Nvidia corporate vice-president Charlie Foo, and Nvidia vice-president Keith Strier (on screen) at the MOU signing ceremony on Jan 19, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

To date, Nvidia has trained about 10 lecturers from the School of Electronics & Info-Comm Technology to deliver the firm's curriculum to students and may eventually train all lecturers across ITE's three colleges, said Mr Chew.

Under the new programme, students can expect to be exposed to skill sets in computer vision, pattern recognition and data analytics. This will prepare them for deploying the nuts and bolts of AI applications in areas such as predictive maintenance and industrial inspection.

On Wednesday, member of the media viewed a range of AI projects that companies can harness.

An automated student interview training system, for instance, helped give feedback to a student on how to improve his delivery.

Mr Dennis Ang, Nvidia senior director of enterprise business in Asean, Australia and New Zealand, said: "AI is a once-in-a-generation technology that is transforming industries around the world.

"As a leader in this space through graphic processing unit accelerated computing, Nvidia will work closely with ITE to share and transfer knowledge, advance AI curriculum and prepare the workforce of tomorrow for Singapore."

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