Some 20 students will begin in April a 10-month artificial-intelligence programme launched on Friday by Microsoft and BeCode, a training centre that specialises in digital technology. The two companies aim to open nine artificial-intelligence schools and train up to 500 people a year.
“Belgium has an opportunity to be among the leaders in the field of artificial intelligence, but there’s an urgent need to train people,” commented Didier Ongena, General Manager of Microsoft Belux.
Most Belgian companies have made their first steps in artificial intelligence, but many business leaders admit that it’s hard to recruit staff with good artificial-intelligence skills.
“We are now going through a fourth industrial revolution,” said Philippe De Backer, Belgium’s Minister in charge of the Digital Agenda. “As a small country with many skills, we can still play a pioneering role in this domain.”
The artificial-intelligence school is free and open to all so as to encourage diversity, according to its promoters. Five of Microsoft’s partners are involved in the project: the Cronos Group: Delaware, Faktion, KPMG and Xylos.
The BeCode training centre targets mainly jobseekers and school dropouts. In addition to Brussels, BeCode plans to open artificial-intelligence training programmes in towns where it is already present, such as Liège, Charleroi, Genk and Antwerp.
This type of training already exists in universities and other institutions of higher learning, and the programme introduced on Friday by Microsoft and BeCode is meant to supplement them, said BeCode CEO Karen Boers.
“We’re developing a new pool of talent,” she explained. We’re reaching a public that does not do too well within the traditional education sector. Seventy percent of the people we’ve already trained in coding have a high-school diploma at most.”