Microsoft, the Central University of Technology (CUT), the Free State government and Gijima today held a live conference talking about the AI University Programme that the group has been working on in an effort to bring machine learning and other important fourth industrial revolution skills to African students.

This was all underpinned by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that continues to spread across South Africa and the rest of the continent. Apart from its impact on education, which we have seen with the move to online classes and examinations, it has also lead to worsening unemployment.

“We are proud to announce today that the Central University of Technology in the Free State is the first to introduce the Microsoft AI University Programme in South Africa to address the demand for artificial intelligence skills. The programme developed by Microsoft will be developed by Gijima and has been designed to pass [on] the skills that employers value today. It gives young graduates with no or limited work experience the ability to explore, to transform, to model and to visualise data as well as to create the next generation of intelligent solutions,” states Lillian Barnard, managing director at Microsoft South Africa, in the conference.

Those in the Free State Provincial Government and the Innovation Services of CUT have first access to the programme, with further intake planned for October / November this year. After this general admissions will take place in the beginning of 2021. This will be followed by tentative plans for an even wider application of the system into the rest of the country and Africa, but the specifics of that will only been ironed out closer to the time.

As for what the programme entails it initially was made for in-person learning, but some of it has been moved online. Right now a blended approach is being used that combines “self-study, online learning, classroom instructor-led training and a flipped classroom,” according to a press release we received.

Over the course of 12 months those enrolled will cover the following aspects:

  1. Mentorship and coaching by industry experts
  2. Business skills,
  3. Microsoft Azure AI Associate Certification
  4. Flipped Classroom
  5. Guest Lecturers
  6. Career days
  7. Examination and Certification

While this programme is focused on graduates and the education sector, the skills it’s looking to impart are becoming more important for everyone seeking work.

“Unprecedented digital transformation is rapidly shaping our world today and it is changing the way we work and live. Technologies such AI, the internet of things and machine learning have entered mainstream and are increasingly accelerating the journey to transform economies globally and redesign the future of work. Amidst this revolution the job landscape is changing as well. New technologies are driving the demand for people to upskill and reskill in order to stay relevant and competitive,” Barnard adds.

In the near future we will hopefully see some results coming out of this initiative, as well as details for more applicants to enrol.

[Image – GDJ on Pixabay]