The global artificial intelligence (AI) talent pool may be growing, but demand is still exceeding supply, according to a tech talent report Element AI released yesterday. That is one of the reasons Microsoft is partnering with French online education platform OpenClassrooms to train and recruit promising students in AI and prepare them for the workplace.
OpenClassrooms is one of a number of massive open online course (MOOC) platforms, offering an unlimited number of people access to courses ranging from programming and project management to product design. The company has raised north of $60 million since its inception in 2007, including a $60 million series B round last May.
Through its latest partnership, OpenClassrooms will construct programs based on Microsoft’s content and project-specific tasks — these are designed to fill the types of AI roles that are in demand. Though it’s reasonable to assume Microsoft is a potential suitor for future graduates, the scope of the program is broader than that — those who complete the master’s-level course will be given access to a range of employers with AI positions to fill.
“The demand for AI and machine learning opportunities has never been stronger,” said OpenClassrooms cofounder and CEO Pierre Dubuc in a press release.
OpenClassrooms isn’t the first MOOC platform to offer AI courses, but nabbing Microsoft as a partner is a big selling point in terms of encouraging signups. Along with other big-name companies, such as Google, Salesforce, and IBM, Microsoft has leveraged OpenClassrooms in the past to design specific courses around its products, so the company has a pretty good idea of what it’s getting into with this official partnership.
Elsewhere, Microsoft is investing considerable resources in various external initiatives around AI — last month, it launched the AI Business School, which is basically a platform for case studies and instructional videos aimed at helping business executives implement AI strategies. Previously, the company also launched an AI for Earth program, which constitutes a $50 million commitment to organizations working to solve the climate change crisis, as well as a global competition to surface emerging AI startups.
OpenClassrooms will recruit around 1,000 AI candidates from across the U.S., U.K., and France. It’s worth noting here that the company’s diploma is only accredited in Europe for now, though it is seeking accreditation for the U.S. and U.K. Students are also promised a refund if they don’t find a job within six months of qualifying.
Students will be able to apply through OpenClassrooms’ website later this fall, a spokesperson told VentureBeat, after which “student success specialists” will screen potential candidates. This will be followed by a formal admissions process involving more tests and screenings. It’s also worth highlighting the one prerequisite that will apply to all applicants: They must hold a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
Those who are accepted will then have 12 months to earn the online diploma, which will cover data science, machine learning, and how to conduct an AI project from start to finish. They will also learn all about Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure platform, specifically for use in data science.
While the full costs attached to the course have yet to be finalized, the duo is pinning the diploma’s appeal on one core notion: The AI talent gap isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so the investment will raise graduates’ future earning potential significantly.
“As AI is changing the way we work and the nature of jobs, we have a responsibility to ensure graduates are prepared for the workplace of tomorrow,” added Microsoft executive Jean-Philippe Courtois.
This article was updated with more information about the content of the AI diploma and the application process.