Community college, Intel partner on program to fill future industry need for AI

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. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
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. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

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. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

In an effort to prepare a workforce for artificial intelligence jobs, Intel and the Maricopa County Community College District launched a certificate and degree last fall and plan to expand the program as the first class of students readies for graduation.

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 is currently available at Chandler-Gilbert and Estrella Mountain community colleges, but Paula Livingston, dean of instruction at Estrella Mountain, said officials hope to make it available at all of the college district’s schools.

An internship is available to students at Intel as they go through the program. Students are also expected to complete a capstone project that encompasses what they have learned.

“What really is driving this is the visioning of the economy,” said Carlos Contreras, senior director of digital readiness at Intel. “For us, getting folks trained for not just current jobs, but future jobs is key. ... What Intel gains [out of this partnership] is that at the end of the day it’s our technology that is being used to create value. It is kind of our responsibility to work with [the education system] to get them ready and to get the workforce ready with these skills. We are going to make sure people are well-positioned for future jobs.”

Habib Matar, who works at Intel and is an instructor of the program at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, said he sees this partnership as Intel investing in its future.


“In the coming years, we are going to see a lot more AI in every industry out there,” Matar said. “It’s going to continue to expand and explode.”

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.

Livingston said the novelty of the program is rooted in the partnership with the community colleges—which greatly increases accessibility to programs and courses.

“This reaches everyone,” Livingston said. “Because of the way it is structured, anyone can explore it. And who doesn’t need to understand AI? Everyone lives in a world driven by data.”

Contreras said earlier this year, the program, which began in Maricopa County, expanded to 18 community colleges in 11 states—and there are aspirations to get an AI program at a community college in every state by the end of 2023.

“There is a lot of hunger for these types of skills,” he said. “There is a willingness for a partnership and collaboration and for learning. We are learning alongside the community colleges and hearing from the local industries.”

Matar said the community college courses are geared at “every kind of learner.”

“We have every type of student,” he said. “There is a mother/daughter in one of the classes. There is someone with more years of experience than I have lived, and there are high school students that haven’t even graduated yet but are enrolled. It is a good fit for all of them.”

Contreras, Matar and Livingston all said the program is a good fit for students looking to get into a variety of occupations, including architects, business analysts, data engineers and other professions.

“We are going to be seeing a lot more AI in every industry out there,” Matar said. “More of this AI will come out in the next few years than the industries can keep up with.”