Singapore to roll out first certification framework for AI engineers in early 2020

Participants of AI Singapore's full-time apprenticeship programme (from left) Michelle Loke, Lim Tern Poh and Kevin Lee.
Participants of AI Singapore's full-time apprenticeship programme (from left) Michelle Loke, Lim Tern Poh and Kevin Lee.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Republic will roll out its first certification framework for artificial intelligence (AI) engineers in early 2020 to help meet the growing demand from employers here for proven local talent.

There is a large variety of AI training courses and programmes available on the market but the absence of a global standard for certifying AI skills means that businesses are often unsure of the calibre of talent they are hiring.

The AI Certification Initiative, which has three levels of proficiency, is meant to plug this need, said AI Singapore's (AISG) director of industry innovation Laurence Liew on Tuesday (Oct 29). AISG is the national programme for enhancing Singapore's AI capabilities.

"Companies don't really know how to qualify or quantify AI skills today. The certification is for AI engineers to show they have the skills and the ability to scale AI projects in a real-world environment," added Mr Liew.

Under the framework, AI professionals are assessed by a panel on not only their technical skills but also whether they have worked on a real-world project that has been implemented.

To qualify as a Level One certified AI engineer, for example, an applicant must have had at least one year's working experience in AI-related roles and deployed at least one AI project worth a minimum of $500,000.

At Levels Two and Three, applicants must further demonstrate the ability to manage an AI engineering team and multiple AI applications across an entire organisation respectively.

Certification for the three levels costs $500, $800 and $1,000 respectively. AISG is currently working out with the Infocomm Media Development Authority for the subsidies that apply.

The evaluation panel comprises AISG representatives and will eventually include AI engineers who have themselves received the certification. Applications are expected to open early next year.

IT professional Kevin Lee, 54, left his previous job to join the third batch of AISG's nine-month full-time apprenticeship programme and is due to graduate at the end of this year.


"I think the certification is a fabulous idea. From an individual perspective, it's a goalpost for us to continuously improve ourselves," said Mr Lee, who has 25 years of experience in the IT industry.

He is thinking of becoming an AI consultant or starting his own company to help other companies adopt AI when he graduates.

"As an employer, I do want to have a certain level of quality (in the people I hire). But there are so many types of online courses out there and it's very difficult to tell the quality between one and another, and that's where the certification comes in," Mr Lee added.

A study released by recruiting firm Michael Page in August indicated that demand for technology jobs in Singapore rose by 20 per cent over the last 12 months.

In Parliament last month, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing called deep-tech industries like AI and cyber security the "linchpin for the future economy", further warning that Singapore "will almost certainly be left behind" if it sits back and does nothing to recruit the top talent in these fields.