After the US Congress cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent in December, the airplane manufacturer Boeing announced that it would spend $300 million of its tax savings on corporate giving and employee programs, including a $100 million investment in learning and development over the next several years. The company is deciding how to structure that investment based partly on an internal survey, which found that 39 percent of Boeing employees wanted better technical development and 29 percent wanted new skills for jobs affected by new technology.
Now, we’re starting to see how Boeing is spending that money. The company announced several new education initiatives this week, focused on digital skills development and diversifying the company’s talent pipeline, GeekWire’s Alan Boyle reports:
The initiatives include a partnership with Degreed.com to give employees access to online lessons, certification courses and degree programs. Another initiative will put $6 million into a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and several historically black colleges and universities. That investment will support scholarships, internships and boot-camp programs to help students experience what it’s like to work at Boeing, the company said.
There’ll also be several new programs to help Boeing employees enhance their technical skills and keep up with industry trends. The focus of the first program will be digital literacy, Boeing said.
Google and the online learning platform Coursera are launching a five-course machine learning specialization to teach developers how to build machine learning models using the TensorFlow framework, Frederic Lardinois reports at TechCrunch:
The new specialization, called “Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform,” has students build real-world machine learning models. It takes them from setting up their environment to learning how to create and sanitize datasets to writing distributed models in TensorFlow, improving the accuracy of those models and tuning them to find the right parameters.
As Google’s Big Data and Machine Learning Tech Lead Lak Lakshmanan told me, his team heard that students and companies really liked the original machine learning course but wanted an option to dig deeper into the material. Students wanted to know not just how to build a basic model but also how to then use it in production in the cloud, for example, or how to build the data pipeline for it and figure out how to tune the parameters to get better results. …
It’s worth noting that these courses expect that you are already a somewhat competent programmer. While it has gotten much easier to start with machine learning thanks to new frameworks like TensorFlow, this is still an advanced skill.
The new series is a continuation of Google’s longstanding partnership with Coursera, through which the tech giant went public with its internal IT support training curriculum earlier this year.
The ASU+GSV Summit, the world’s largest industry-facing conference in the field of education technology, took place earlier this month in San Diego, California. Edtech strategist Frank Catalano, who attended the conference, offered his take on the industry’s current direction at GeekWire last week. The main lesson Catalano took away from the event was that edtech companies and investors are seeing the workplace, not the classroom, as the most influential and lucrative venue for deploying these technologies in the future:
An emphasis on training the workforce, both current employees and future, was evident throughout ASU+GSV. It seemed to outshine earlier years’ emphases on disrupting the K-12 classroom (perhaps students do that well enough now) or completely upending college as we know it (MOOCs, or massively open online courses, are now corporate training tools, too). An entire programming track was focused on “talent,” including human resources, recruiting, and staff education.
In a session titled, “Mixed Reality: Can AR/VR Transform Enterprise Learning,” Dan Ayoub, Microsoft’s general manager of mixed reality and education, said that Microsoft HoloLens is skewing toward universities and the enterprise so far. Part of its appeal, he said, is that HoloLens has a front-facing camera that allows a remote expert to evaluate how the wearer is doing. …
Derek Belch, CEO of STRIVR Labs, talked about the work his company does with virtual reality for WalMart, noting that 70 percent of trainees who used VR did better than those who did not. He also described how STRIVR was able to put what had been a three-hour lecture into a 12-minute VR experience for an insurance company, and found retention of the training material was about the same.
Amazon’s ongoing foray into learning technology was also on display at ASU+GSV, Catalano added:
Google has taken its internal IT training curriculum and, in partnership with Coursera, taken it public in the form of a certificate program. The tech giant is also providing full funding to 10,000 students, despite the fact that the majority of them will never become Googlers. Still, this initiative will allow Google to build a pipeline of talent in a critical field—they’ll have an inside track to hiring top performers from the program—while also enabling diversity across the entire sector by upskilling candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. It burnishes the company’s public image as well: The program is available to anyone, the cost is highly subsidized, and Google will have a hand in closing the digital talent gap.
The cost of the program is $49 per month, and scholarships will be funded by Google.org grants and distributed in part through community groups such as Year Up, Goodwill, Student Veterans of America, and Upwardly Global, per Google’s press release. The goal is for students to be ready for entry-level IT support jobs within 8 to 12 months after they complete the training, which consists of 64 hours of video lessons as well as interactive labs and assignments.
Trainees will learn to handle tasks such as troubleshooting and customer service, operating systems, and system administration, automation, and security. Once students complete the program, they will also have the option to share their information with an impressive list of corporate employers such as Bank of America, Walmart, PNC Bank, and more, in addition to Google.
While Google is the trendsetter here, Coursera is working on similar programs with other companies, Quartz’s Michael J. Coren notes:
Recently writing at Personnel Today, Ben Batts made the provocative argument that in the age of digital learning, corporate learning and development functions should stop creating content and start aggregating it instead:
Basing your learning strategy, digital or otherwise, on the creation and delivery of content, makes it tremendously difficult to serve your workforce in a timely, relevant and personalised manner. Creation is slow. It’s expensive. It requires an increasing level of expertise to make online learning content that looks and feels credible in a world of premium resources. …
The world is full of content. It is full of learning content. So, wouldn’t it be more efficient to procure and curate existing content, than to create it from scratch? … As learning professionals we’ve taken it upon ourselves to be the curators of this content; to take a range of sources and craft the perfect piece of learning content for our audience. I think we’re going too far and having all the fun.
The core of my thesis is this: be the aggregator of suitable resources and let your learners work out for themselves which content is appropriate, necessary and useful for their context. You can’t possibly hope to personalise things enough to make this right for every person. But people can make it right for themselves.
Designing learning content has always been at the core of L&D’s work. As Batts mentions, things are changing: Learning is moving online, it’s no longer limited to the classroom, and the amount of content available is ever-increasing. So, how does all this change L&D’s role? Batts’s answer is to turn L&D into a content aggregator, allowing employees to chart their own courses by choosing the content that is right for them.
The proliferation of online learning vendors and free products certainly creates an opportunity for corporate L&D functions to benefit from content they did not have to create themselves. The notion that L&D should stop designing learning altogether, however, misjudges how employees learn best and undervalues L&D’s expertise.
With the rapid advance of AI and machine learning technology, employers need talent with skills and knowledge in this field at a greater rate than university programs are able to churn them out. The imbalance of supply and demand has led to large, rich companies buying up all the AI startups and luring AI professors away from universities with much larger salaries. To address this issue and expand access to AI education, Stanford University professor and Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng has launched a new website, Deeplearning.ai, whose courses “offer coders without an AI background training in how to use deep learning, the technique behind the current frenzy of investment in AI,” Wired’s Tom Simonite reports:
“This sounds naive, but I want us to build a new AI-powered society,” Ng tells WIRED. “The only way to build this is if there are hundreds of thousands of people with the skills to do things like improve the water supply for your city or help resource allocation in developing economies.” Ng’s new courses cost $49 a month and are offered through online-education startup Coursera, which he cofounded in 2012 and where he still sits on the board. …
With his new courses, Ng is offering a solution to a problem he helped create. His prominence comes from work on deep learning at Stanford and Google’s X Labs that helped prove machine learning could do transformational things for businesses. In a 2012 paper, he and coauthors described a system that learned to recognize cats in still images from YouTube without human help. Now there aren’t enough people with machine learning skills to go around.
Ng’s motivation to launch Deeplearning also stems from his sense that people who don’t understand how AI works are afraid of it, which he thinks we shouldn’t be, Daniel Terdiman adds at Fast Company: Read more
The value of a college degree has been called into question in recent years, partly because many of the most dependable jobs in today’s economy are technical roles that employees can prepare for through alternative education; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has begun speaking of “new collar” employees who she expects to perform many new, high-tech roles that don’t necessarily require an advanced degree.
In the meantime, alternative forms of education like online programs and coding bootcamps are producing an ever-greater number of candidates who may have the skills employers need, but not the diplomas they are looking for. “As such alternative forms of education become more common, Lauren Dixon wonders at Talent Economy, “what will it take for recruiters to equate the credibility of skills earned through these new platforms with those earned through more conventional education?”
By requiring a college degree for many roles, employers might be limiting their candidate pool too much, leading to today’s persistent skills gap. … “When you only recruit from the same pools that you’ve traditionally recruited from, obviously the supply there is not sufficient to cover the demand,” said Kieran Luke, general manager of credentials at General Assembly, a global education company specializing in in-demand skills based in New York.