Microsoft-MIT AI Boot Camp: Upskilling Workers and Executives Alike

  • Major tech players and leading universities are stepping up efforts to fill the AI talent gap through increased availability of professional and workforce training programmes.
  • Software company Salesforce recently added a Gen AI component to its free online learning platform, Trailhead, which has trained around 6 million people since it was launched in 2014.

The recent surge in AI-powered technologies and the skills they demand has led to a significant increase in professional and workforce training. Big tech players, such as Google and Microsoft, along with top universities including Stanford, MIT and Harvard, have all ramped up their AI training offerings. Online tech education companies, such as Udacity and Maven, are also contributing to this drive for AI knowledge.

Salesforce’s free online learning platform, Trailhead, has added a Gen AI component to its suite of courses. The platform aims to be engaging and fun with learners earning badges for completing different sets of skills. Since it launched in 2014, Trailhead has trained around 6 million people, with over 700,000 badges for AI-specific skills being awarded since June of this year, according to Ann Weeby, Salesforce senior vice president of Trailhead and Learning Operations.

This drive for AI re-skilling is taking place within these major companies too. Salesforce’s recent CEO promotion, Clara Shih, said, “We’re retraining every single person in recruiting, sales, finance, sales and customer support and evangelizing for them to become AI experts.” Shih oversees efforts to get Salesforce’s employees and clients up-to-speed with the latest safety and security risks, as well as efficiency boosts and data management techniques.

In-house training continues to be a priority for other major tech firms, with networking technology company Cisco Systems expanding its Networking Academy for IT to include Gen AI courses. Meanwhile, software company Microsoft’s generative AI coursework has outpaced any of its IT courses, with 1.5 million learners to date.

Leading universities have also stepped up to fill the AI knowledge gap. For example, MIT’s Sloan School of Management has updated its online executive education courses to include generative AI instruction.

However, concerns remain about a potential widening of the digital divide due to AI knowledge and skill sets. Efforts are therefore underway to ensure that AI training is accessible to underserved communities and that diversity in the tech field is emphasized. For instance, Microsoft has created an initiative to offer free coursework on generative AI skills to those who might otherwise struggle to access such learning opportunities.