IBM will train about 800 mid-career professionals over the next year in artificial intelligence and cyber security under a new programme announced yesterday.
The programme is part of a larger government effort by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) to provide 30,000 training places for Singaporeans this year, as announced in May.
Speaking at IBM's premises in Changi Business Park yesterday, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said about 18,000 of the 30,000 places have been created to date by employers like IBM, training providers and institutes of higher learning.
Response to the training spots on offer has also been strong, with almost 15,000 people expressing interest so far, he added.
"So long as our mid-career (professionals) have the right mindset to want to continue to reskill and upskill, we will do our part to provide you with the support necessary to get the relevant training and be in a good position to get a job when the economy recovers," said Mr Wong.
"We are looking at skills that will be in demand and in areas of future growth, and IT is naturally one of these areas. IT itself is not a vertical sector but a skill set that can be applied in many sectors... and a programme like this will potentially allow the graduates to be employable across many fields."
IBM's programme, called i.am-vitalize, offers two full-time training courses in AI and cyber security that will run over six months.
Trainees for both courses will complete a set of introductory modules over the first 21/2 months, before branching out into specialised tracks.
The first five online classes, comprising 13 or 14 trainees to two instructors, started on Monday.
The course costs $500 with SSG subsidies, and trainees also receive a $1,500 monthly allowance.
Enrolment is open until March next year, and those interested can sign up at https://webibmcourse.mybluemix.net/SGUnitedProgramme
Banking on AI skills to get back to work
Looking to get back into full-time employment in February after leaving her marketing role with a local bank in 2018 to focus on her family, Ms Genevieve Gay hardly expected to be still searching for a job after six months.
But the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year drastically changed the complexion of the job market for the worse.
"It has been extremely difficult because firstly, the kind of roles that (mid-career professionals) are looking for are far and few between," said Ms Gay, 47, a single mother to a 16-year-old son.
"For a lot of junior roles as well, even if you are willing to take a lower pay, companies are not willing to consider you. It can be demoralising when you cannot land a job or even an interview."
Ms Gay is now looking to acquire new skills and knowledge in artificial intelligence that she can combine with her years of marketing experience.
She is among the first batch of mid-career professionals to embark on a six-month training course conducted by IBM.
The course is part of IBM's new i.am-vitalize programme, which aims to train about 800 mid-career professionals in AI and cyber security by the end of next year.
Another trainee, 54-year-old Paul Lai, left his job as a secondary school mathematics teacher in January after 17 years, and has also endured a fruitless job search thus far.
"I'm hoping that the course will be able to help me bridge the skills gap in terms of my employability as I already have some prior knowledge in the technology field," said Mr Lai, who worked in the financial sector as a systems analyst prior to becoming a teacher.
About 400 mid-career professionals have signed up so far, with more than 200 accepted and due to begin classes in batches over the next few months.
Applicants have to be Singaporeans or permanent residents, and possess basic IT literacy such as being familiar with Web browsers and using a mouse and keyboard.
AI designers, blockchain developers and data engineers are among the roles that trainees can transition into upon graduation, IBM said.
The company has also linked up with industry partners such as Standard Chartered Bank and blockchain firm Tribe Accelerator to facilitate job placement opportunities and give feedback on what employers want.
"We are definitely looking to employ some of the graduates from these courses," said IBM Singapore managing director Martin Chee.
"Clearly, we always want to hire the best, and many of the trainees come from amazing backgrounds. It's a case of combining technology with business, and these students will have something to add that will make them more employable."
Tribe Accelerator managing partner Ng Yi Ming said the programme focuses on real-life case studies and scenarios where knowledge of AI and cyber security can be applied, something which employers are looking for.
It is less theoretical and more about how AI and cyber security can be applied to everyday work and understanding companies' needs, he added.