The program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and was made possible through a collaboration with Intel, the Arizona Commerce Authority and Maricopa Community Colleges. The program will be available at Chandler-Gilbert and Estrella Mountain Community College. An internship will be available to students at Intel as they go through the program.
"We are at the forefront of innovation," said Gabriela Rosu, dean of instruction as college occupational administrator. "We are looking at programs that the workforce is driving. ... Our vision for moving forward is that we are the first community college in the country to offer this type of partnership, but also with Intel the vision is to scale that and offer it at other colleges across the country and across the world, using the same model.
Bassam and Habib Matar have been preparing for months to lead the first AI cohort of students. Habib Matar works at Intel as well.
"The impression is the AI is going to take away jobs, and maybe it will take away jobs that you have to do over and over, but it is going to create new opportunities for our students," Bassam Matar told Community Impact Newspaper. "AI can be applied in any field. It could be in health care or education or automotive—anything, you name it. It's very exciting, it really is."
Arizona and Phoenix are projected to see 21,535 AI employment opportunities in 2020, which is 6% above the national average, according to a news release from the community college district. The local demand for AI talent is increasing in Maricopa County, and careers are projected to grow faster than the average rate for all employment over the next decade. Research done by the Maricopa County Community College District Workforce and Economic Development Office estimates an increase of 22.4% for these roles by 2029, according to Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.
"We see a disconnect of what the industry are moving forward and the higher education offering," Rosu said. "What's exciting for me is just bringing that innovation to the students but also to show the the workforce, to our business partners and industries that this is what a community college can do and offer, and these are the types of employees we can produce for the industry."
The Maricopa Community Colleges will launch the first two courses in the Artificial Intelligence & Machine-learning program virtually in the fall semester. By January 2021, MCCCD plans to have all five courses deployed for the spring 2021 semester.