AI training program enters Chinese universities

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a key aspect of technology in China, and universities in the country are ramping up their training programs to meet the growing demand for AI experts. A special five-year AI talent training program was unveiled on April 3 by the Ministry of Education to help with that mission.

AI is becoming more and more prominent within our lives as it is now being used within the delivery service and the health sector. Alongside this, face and voice recognition are now a common security feature.

More than 300 companies offered about 14,000 AI-related positions during a recent job fair at Xi'an Jiaotong University, one of China's leading technology schools. Annual salaries for these types of positions can reach up to 60,000 US dollars, way above the average for most new graduates.

But how do we train a qualified AI expert? As a latecomer to AI education, China still lags behind.

“The talent shortage has become the bottleneck of China's AI development. So far, ten Chinese universities have set up AI-related majors. But with the limits of equipment and environment, many graduates lack the practical operational skills of AI, thus failing the urgent needs of employers," said Xu Tao, director of the International Cooperation and Exchanges Department at the Ministry of Education.

Goldman and Sachs released a special report on China's Rise in AI in 2017, suggesting that China would become a major global force in using AI to drive economic progress thanks to its supportive policies and booming technology.

However, another Goldman report suggested that while China has joined half of the world's new AI projects, it only accounts for five percent of the global AI talent pool.

The Ministry of Education and Sinovation Ventures launched a five-year education project on Tuesday to help bridge that gap. The project aims to educate 500 Chinese university teachers and another 5,000 students in AI.

One hundred and six teachers from 49 universities are already participating in the first round of training at Peking University. The curriculum includes the latest AI theories and practices.

It is China's first international AI training project at a university level and its faculty includes such luminaries as Turing-Award-winning computer scientist John Edward Hopcroft and Chinese AI expert Li Kaifu.

Professor Hopcroft, who has been involved in teaching AI in China for a decade, will teach a course at Peking University on "deep networks".

"I am hoping these 100 instructors will go back to their institutions and if each teaches a class of 100 students that's 10,000 students that will get educated rather than working at the level of 100 that I used to work on," said John E. Hopcroft, IBM professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics at Cornell University.

China published its national development plan for AI in 2017 and aims to become a world leader in the sector by 2030. The country has also prioritized the training and recruitment of AI talent and the ministry says it is considering the establishment of an AI major in Chinese universities.


Excerpt from the official website of China Daily

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