Intel, Maricopa Community Colleges Launch First AI Degree Program

By Christina Estes
Published: Sunday, July 12, 2020 - 4:57pm
Updated: Monday, July 13, 2020 - 7:39am

students at desks
Maricopa County Community College District
Students at Chandler-Gilbert Community College gather for orientation in 2019.

The Maricopa County Community College District is partnering with a multinational technology company to offer Arizona’s first artificial intelligence certificate and degree program

Artificial intelligence is a blanket term that means getting computers and machines to simulate human thinking and behavior — from robots to Google maps. Demand for AI skills is growing, and that’s what led technology company Intel to work with the community college district to develop specific courses. 

The Maricopa Community Colleges program is the first Intel-designed AI program in the country.

“We were able to get this done in about six months start to finish,” said Darcy Renfro, chief workforce and economic development officer with the college district. “That is really what Maricopa is working toward — the being able to work at the speed of business.”

In a statement, Gregory Bryan, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the Client Computing Group said: “We strongly believe AI technology should be shaped by many voices representing different experiences and backgrounds. Community colleges offer the opportunity to expand and diversify AI since they attract a diverse array of students with a variety of backgrounds and expertise.”

two students at computer
Maricopa County Community College District
The Maricopa County Community College District will launch the first Intel-designed artificial intelligence associate degree program in the United States.

Students will learn data collection, AI model training, coding and explore AI technology’s societal impact. Intel will provide mentors and summer internships. 

The first two courses in the Artificial Intelligence & Machine-learning (AIM) program are expected to launch online at Estrella Mountain Community College and Chandler-Gilbert Community College this fall. The district plans to have all five courses ready for the Spring 2021 semester. Students who complete all courses will earn a Certificate of Completion and Associate’s degree that can be transferred to a four-year college.

Renfro said the new program could have a big impact beyond the students earning degrees: “When we increase our educational attainment levels as a population in Arizona, we are more attractive for new companies and new jobs looking to locate, looking to start, looking to grow, so it creates, it’s a job creator.”

Some jobs where AI skills are requested include business analysts, engineers, developers, health managers and marketing managers. The Maricopa Community Colleges Workforce and Economic Development Office estimates a 22.4% increase in demand for AI talent in Arizona by 2029.

EDITOR'S NOTE: KJZZ is licensed by the Maricopa County Community College District.

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