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Intel launches AI skills programme at SA college

The first TVET-level AI course has launched at a college in Brits, with skills training provided by Intel. BONGANI SITHOLE and BRYAN TURNER report from the launch.

During the launch of an artificial intelligence course at Orbit TVET college in Brits, a student took to the stage to outline how he would design a smart traffic system to prevent pedestrian injuries. Through the use of AI, traffic lights would notify pedestrians about a car that may not be able to stop in time, enabling smarter decisions, and saving lives. 

This is just one example of how young South Africans have a problem-solution approach to developing innovative solutions for everyday challenges.

Aiming at developing and nurturing skills in the ever-growing field of AI, Intel has partnered with Orbit Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in Brits to train more students in the discipline. The training programme is part of an international initiative by Intel called AI for Future Workforce. The aim of the programme is to inspire young students to explore opportunities in artificial intelligence and spark interest in developing solutions, once they get the knowhow. 

The curriculum of the programme includes computer vision, natural language processing, and statistics. Students will also have an opportunity to learn about the opportunities offered by technology and build their technical skillsets to kickstart their careers, either for existing businesses or to become their own data entrepreneurs.

“This AI skills initiative marks the shift toward project-based education,” said Dika Mokoena, principal at Orbit TVET. “It was exciting this morning to hear the young man’s plan to solve the challenges we face on our roads. TVET is key in the future and development of this country, and this programme is proof of that.”

Over 300 students in their final year have already been guided by the 12 trainers allocated to the programme.

Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, director-general of the DHET, said: “The good thing about working with Intel is they provide their experience to complement the interests of South Africa. It will provide students with opportunities to go beyond our borders, and if you look at the unemployment issues in South Africa, the economy of South Africa might not necessarily be big enough to absorb everyone. So it’s important for us to start thinking about working such that our programs in our institutions are relevant beyond the borders of our country. ”

As South Africa’s technology sector develops rapidly, the country is well-positioned to become the continent’s hub for the development of AI-related products, services and technologies. This is particularly critical for the education, healthcare and transport sectors in the country, where new technologies and solutions are required to address the historic challenges of inefficiencies and inaccuracies.

Dr Nick Balkrishen, regional manager for TVET and CET colleges in North West and Mpumalanga, said: “This is an appetiser AI course, which provides a broad overview of what AI is. There are other steps of the training programme and we feel this will empower the students greatly. If they have an interest in AI, then they will take all the steps in the training programme that are being offered to grow their interests.”

The course is set to roll out to more TVETs throughout the country.

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