Microsoft partners with OpenClassrooms to recruit and train 1,000 AI students

The global artificial intelligence (AI) talent pool may be growing, but demand is still exceeding supply, according to a tech talent report released yesterday by Element AI. And that is partly why Microsoft is partnering with French online education platform OpenClassrooms, with a view toward training and recruiting promising students in AI and readying them for the workplace.

OpenClassrooms is one of a number of so-called massive open online course (MOOC) platforms, giving an unlimited number of people access to courses ranging from programming and project management to product design. The company has raised north of $60 million since its inception in 2007, including a $60 million series B round last May.

Through its latest partnership, OpenClassrooms will construct programs based on Microsoft’s content and project-specific tasks — these are designed for fill the types of AI roles that are in demand. Though it’s a reasonable assumption that Microsoft is invested here as a potential suitor for future graduates, the scope is broader than that — those who complete the masters-level course will be given access to a range of employers that have AI positions to fill.

“The demand for AI and machine learning opportunities has never been stronger,” said OpenClassrooms cofounder and CEO Pierre Dubuc, in a press release.

AI education

OpenClassrooms isn’t the first MOOC platform to offer AI courses, but nabbing Microsoft as a partner is a big selling point in terms of encouraging signups. Along with other big-name companies such as Google, Salesforce, and IBM, Microsoft has actually leveraged OpenClassrooms in the past to design specific courses around their products, so it already knows what it’s getting into with this official partnership.

Elsewhere, Microsoft is investing considerable resources in various external initiatives around AI — last month it launched the AI Business School, which is basically case studies and instructional videos aimed at helping business executives implement AI strategies. Previously, the company has also launched an AI for Earth program which constitutes a $50 million commitment to organizations working to solve the climate change crisis, as well as a global competition to surface emerging AI startups.

OpenClasrooms will recruit around 1,000 AI candidates from across the U.S., U.K., and France, though it’s worth noting here that the company’s diploma is currently only accredited in Europe for now — however, it is seeking accreditation for the U.S. and U.K. too. Students are also promised a refund if they don’t find a job within six months of qualifying.

Digging down into the details of the course reveals, well, not very much — neither company has revealed how candidates go about applying, when they can apply from, how much the course costs, how long it is expected to take, or what specific topics it covers. Presumably this will be announced at a later date — but for now, the duo are pinning the diploma’s appeal on one core notion: the AI talent gap isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

“As AI is changing the way we work and the nature of jobs, we have a responsibility to ensure graduates are prepared for the workplace of tomorrow,” added Microsoft executive Jean-Philippe Courtois.

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