On 23 December, 2019, we witnessed the graduation of the third batch of apprentices from the AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP)™. In his keynote address, Director of AI Industry Innovation, Laurence Liew, thanked the new graduates for their confidence in the programme and for taking the leap of faith to join it full-time, which meant giving up a full-time job for many of them. Their foresight has in fact been affirmed by the recognition of AIAP™ as one of the country winners in the “Talent Accelerator” category in the IDC Digital Transformation Awards (DX Awards) late last year. Much has been learned during the apprenticeship and the spirit of never-stop-learning should never waver, for it was an important criterion for selection into the programme in the first place.
Kevin Lee, one of the more senior graduates and a 25-year veteran of the IT industry, also took to the stage to share his personal thoughts about the preceding nine months of the apprenticeship. Calling it a period of tremendous learning, he was thankful for having had the chance to engage in the end-to-end experience of working on a real-world business problem, translating it into an AI project and deploying the solution in a corporate environment. Through it all, he had been able to experience first-hand the good, the bad and the ugly that are present on the journey of creating value with AI in real-life. Apart from the technical skills acquired, he was impressed with the “can-do” attitude of his younger peers. He shared a particular anecdote about the time he was invited to team up for a hackathon and coding challenge. Looking at the event’s problem description, he questioned whether anyone really knew how to tackle it. The reply was much food for thought for him.
No, we don’t. But we’ll figure it out! ✌️
It was an epiphany of sort for Kevin :
When we were young, in our twenties, we had no fear. We took on challenges… absorb new knowledge like a sponge. But as we age, especially when we are successful in our careers, the more we habituate to our comfort zones. Once we get in there, we will be reluctant to come out… take risks and challenges.
But take on risks and new challenges we must as in this day and age, learning and re-learning is the mantra that sounds ever louder by the day.
Coming in at the other end of the spectrum, Benedict Lee, who recently graduated from university, recalled how intense the start of the apprenticeship had been. For the first two months, the apprentices had to undergo a common training where they had to do assignments based on important concepts across the broad field of AI before they got assigned to their projects. The pace was breakneck and as is often the case in working life, there were new concepts to digest before the current ones had been fully done with.
What really helped, in Benedict’s opinion, was the supportive culture in the programme. Everyone was open to discuss ideas, and simply turning to the person next to you was often enough to resolve or clarify many things.
There had been a lot to learn, a lot to do and quite a bit of fun.
Having successfully completed the gruelling 9-month apprenticeship programme at the end of 2019, we wish our graduates and newly-minted AI engineers success in 2020 and beyond!
The AIAP™ is the first TechSkills Accelerator Company-Led Training (TeSA-CLT) initiative in AI. This is a collaboration between AI Singapore and IMDA to develop a pipeline of AI professionals for the industry.
Application for the sixth batch of apprentices will open on 3 February, 2020. Click here to find out more.