LinkedIn is developing a major new training program to teach its employees about artificial intelligence, which it predicts will be a part of everything they do in the near future, GeekWire’s Nat Levy reported last week:
The AI Academy program will start with classes for engineers, product managers and executives, but the company hopes to expand it so every employee can gain some degree of AI expertise. The first cohort from LinkedIn engineering just started going through the program, but the company is already looking at making the AI Academy part of its onboarding process for all new employees. There are four levels of classes, each one a deeper dive than the last. When participants are done, LinkedIn wants them to have an understanding one of the most important issues in the field: which problems AI can solve and which ones it can’t.
LinkedIn’s Head of Science and Engineering Craig Martell writes in a blog post about the program that AI is “like oxygen—it’s present in every product that we build and in every experience on our platform.” There it has common ground with parent company Microsoft. Like LinkedIn, Microsoft has infused AI into many of its major initiatives, and it offers an online training program for developers.
Microsoft has made huge bets on AI and sought to position itself as a leader in the field, hiring thousands of scarce and expensive AI experts and building AI functionality into its suite of enterprise products—with which LinkedIn is also becoming increasingly integrated. In that context, it’s no surprise to see LinkedIn make AI knowledge a priority for its own workforce: They’re going to need it.
Because AI is still an emerging technology, there aren’t a lot of people in the world who understand it on a sophisticated level. While LinkedIn might not need all of its employees to know how to build AI systems or be able to describe how they work in detail, understanding what AI does and does not do, and how to use it, will only become more important with each passing year. This is not specific to LinkedIn, either: Gartner research from earlier this year found that nearly half of Chief Information Officers have plans in place to implement AI in their organizations in the near term. As the experiments organizations are currently embarking on with AI begin to pan out and as this technology becomes more mainstream, basic familiarity with AI will be an increasingly important aspect of every employee’s skill set, particularly (though by no means exclusively) for technical employees.
Also notable is LinkedIn’s decision to take matters into its own hands when it comes to developing an AI-capable workforce. Companies can’t afford to wait for a new generation of professionals to come out of college with a baked-in understanding of this technology; they have to close this and other digital skills gaps proactively. This is why the bootcamp model has gained traction as an enterprise offering, as illustrated by Adecco’s recent acquisition of the New York-based coding bootcamp and education technology startup General Assembly. Tech companies are also hard at work upgrading their internal digital skills curricula and even releasing these programs to the public as consumer products, like Salesforce did with its Trailhead program late last year and as Amazon Web Services may do with the enterprise learning management system it is developing for its own uses.