How Singapore’s workforce is gearing up for AI jobs

By Jaz Low

Leaders from Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education share how the school is preparing students to face an AI-dominated future.

In 2017, Sophia, an AI-enabled robot, was granted citizenship to Saudi Arabia. She has gone on to have a career in marketing, saying “I can share with brands how to use technology for good -- how it can be friendly, expressive, understanding and ethical. I am here to help”, wrote Business Insider.

AI tools are setting out to be a great help in the workforce, even if they might have less of a personality than Sophia. The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is launching a new course and training facility to prepare students for careers that involve AI. The vocational school is also using AI to teach students.

Eric Cheung, Senior Director of ITE’s Curriculum and Educational Development Division, and Greg Chew, Deputy Director of ITE College Central’s School of Electronics & Infocomm Technology share how the school is training an AI-enabled workforce.

AI applications course

ITE is launching an AI applications course to meet the rise in demand for AI jobs. It trains students to develop AI solutions and manage AI projects.

The course will teach them to programme computers that understand spoken or written human language. This could be handy in building customer service assistants that respond to verbal commands, as well as cleaning robots that alert people to wet floors.

Students will also learn to build AI that recognises and tracks common objects in images and videos. This allows drones to identify a missing person during a search operation, or monitor poachers who threaten endangered wildlife, Skygrid wrote.

AI can help autonomous vehicles to navigate roads and traffic, which makes driving safer. Cameras detect lane lines to keep cars from veering off. They also measure the distance between cars to avoid collisions.

How to create fairer AI

Apart from learning how to apply AI, the course will teach students how to use the tech responsibly. The curriculum includes modules on AI ethics and bias according to ITE’s website.

With the abundance of online courses, anyone can learn how to programme AI. But not everyone will know how to manage it and avoid its negative effects, Cheung says.

AI models make recommendations and predictions based on what they have gathered from past data. However, this data could contain human biases so it is important that students learn how to prevent AI from perpetuating them.

For example, if a university has preferentially admitted students of a particular gender, algorithms that sieve through applications might prefer those of the same group. If a bank has only given loans to a particular race in the past, other ethnicities might find it harder to receive loan approvals. Students will learn how to create more inclusive algorithms through this course.

The course also provides students with the opportunity to accumulate practical experience and apply their skills to the real world. “We work with leading industry partners to develop our curriculum. Trainees will have opportunities to use the latest AI technologies from companies such as Google and Intel,” Cheung shares.

AI training facility 

ITE is building an AI training facility that will “expose students to state-of-the-art AI training equipment and hardware,” Greg Chew, Deputy Director of ITE College Central’s School of Electronics & Infocomm Technology notes. It aims to train close to 400 students every year, ITE stated in a press release.

The training facility will host American tech company NVIDIA’s supercomputing platform, which allows students to build AI tools alongside companies.

For instance, students can work with healthcare institutions to accelerate drug design. AI-enabled automated chemistry systems can help scientists precisely control reaction conditions, which will reduce the risk of human error and make results more reliable.

NVIDIA will be training ITE lecturers to deliver its AI curriculum to students as well. Lecturers will learn how to power automated messaging and speech-enabled applications like chatbots, and how to train AI to detect equipment failure before it happens.

Nurturing a future-ready workforce

Aside from preparing students for AI job roles, ITE is using AI to help students perform better in interviews, the institute said in a press release. AI will analyse students’ verbal responses and facial expressions during mock interview sessions, and provide them with feedback for improvement.

ITE is also using AI to assess students’ practical skills. For example, it will record how students assemble and disassemble a desktop computer and evaluate if students have adopted the correct procedures.

This means lecturers won’t have to grade students’ work manually. They can use video playback to provide more detailed guidance to students.

ITE’s new AI course aims to nurture talents who can build up the future of the AI workforce. Aside from imparting theoretical knowledge, it is equipping students with practical skills by offering hands-on learning at its training facility and incorporating AI into its teaching.