CXO

LinkedIn internal AI Academy could be model for firms plagued by tech talent shortage

LinkedIn's goal is to equip engineers, product managers, and other employees to deliver top notch AI experiences.

Professional social networking giant LinkedIn is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in every product that it creates to personalize the product for every user. However, the company has faced a common challenge in its technological pursuits: A lack of skilled talent.

To address this problem, the company on Wednesday announced the LinkedIn AI Academy: An internal training program with the goal of teaching engineers, product managers, and other employees the skills they need to develop strong AI products for users.

The AI Academy includes a number of courses targeted to different job roles and business needs, according to a LinkedIn blog post. For example, engineers will take a course called AI200, "Building an AI Product from End-to-End," which will consist of five one-day-per-week classes. It will also involve a one-month apprenticeship with the company's core AI team, so engineers can put their new knowledge into practice.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Meanwhile, product managers and company executives will take a one-day, deep-dive course focusing on specific knowledge needed to manage AI products, the post said, with the goal of learning which problems can be solved using AI, and which cannot.

As noted by our sister site ZDNet, LinkedIn's motivation for launching the AI academy traces back to the Silicon Valley talent wars. With a shortage of skilled workers in many areas of tech, companies should consider looking to internal training to develop the talent needed for digital transformation and other projects. Some companies have looked to cross-training internal IT and other staff to fill cybersecurity gaps, for example. This can be a cost-effective way to ensure that you are developing workers with the right skills for your specific company.

In a similar fashion, Google recently released a free, 15-hour machine learning crash course that was initially developed to train employees. If LinkedIn's effort proves successful, it may be evidence that other companies should follow suit.

In particular, if your company is struggling to find talent in high-demand areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and DevOps, it may be worth considering building your own training program, or hiring a consultant to help you do so. This could be an especially good choice for companies with smaller budgets, or those located away from major tech hubs.

In LinkedIn's program, the instructors are all AI experts from LinkedIn's core AI team, the post noted. The first cohort of participants from LinkedIn Engineering are currently completing coursework. Depending on their experience level, some may complete the program with an AI product that is ready to integrate into their team's production workflow.

LinkedIn plans to extend the AI Academy to employees that work with others who use AI, such as sales people who work with tech clients, and recruiters who work with LinkedIn Engineering, according to the post. The method of democratizing tech knowledge could be very useful in security, potentially lowering the risk posed by non-technical employees.

"We aren't trying to turn every engineer into an AI Ph.D with this program—that would be impossible," the post said. "Instead, we are opening up the AI toolbox to all of our engineers, so that they can more easily incorporate AI into their day-to-day work."

The courses will also include curriculum on ethical approaches to AI, the post noted, such as choosing data training without bias.

LinkedIn's goal is to scale AI across the entire company, according to the post. The AI Academy will give all employees a common language with AI specialists to facilitate further collaboration in the space. The company is also considering making the courses part of the onboarding process for all new employees.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • LinkedIn launched an AI Academy to teach employees the skills the need to develop strong AI products for users.
  • More companies may want to consider internal training programs to fill tech talent gaps.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/monsitj

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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