April 15, 2024

Job postings in artificial intelligence and related fields like machine learning and natural language processing are on the rise around the world. And that’s having an impact on what many students plan to study in college and how people in the job market think about maintaining relevant skills. More than half of workers in one global study said they wanted more AI training from their employers. 

April 14-20, 2024 marks IEEE Education Week. It’s the organization’s celebration of educational opportunities it provides, including classes, seminars and webinars for pre-university STEM students and professionals seeking to hone their skills. 

To mark the occasion, we spoke with IEEE Senior Member Babak Beheshti, a member of the IEEE Education Society’s Board of Governors. Here, he discusses the demand for new skill sets, the training activities available throughout the event week, and how students and professionals are positioning themselves to succeed. 

“The ascent of AI has notably heightened the importance of ongoing education for all individuals, particularly those in engineering and STEM fields,” Beheshti said. 

According to research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there’s been a marked increase in job postings that require some familiarity with AI. But, a tiny percentage actually require applicants to have the skills necessary to modify or build AI algorithms. What’s your opinion on the types of courses and training people should be looking for? 

It’s true that not every professional needs to possess the expertise to develop or modify AI algorithms,  but a foundational understanding of AI is becoming increasingly essential. Proficiency at the user level in AI is poised to become a requisite skill for individuals entering the workforce. This includes mastering techniques such as “query engineering” to formulate precise inquiries for large language models, ensuring optimal outcomes.  

For current students preparing to navigate this evolving landscape, courses and learning modules in areas such as data analytics, machine learning and formal query construction are highly recommended. These educational pursuits will equip them with the competencies needed to thrive in a world increasingly shaped by AI technologies.

Has the rise of AI changed the need for continuing education in the technology and engineering workforce over the last few years?

The swift success of generative AI models like ChatGPT and the resultant fervor in the AI sphere underscore a pace of technological advancement unparalleled in human history. While the trajectory of future applications and technologies remains uncertain, what’s clear is that continuous education is swiftly becoming a standard for technical professionals to stay abreast of forthcoming advancements.

What types of questions are you getting from students and colleagues about opportunities in the workforce?

The typical inquiries revolve around which postgraduate degrees to pursue, which elective courses to take alongside current studies and which minors or concentrations to consider in order to enhance one’s readiness for the AI-integrated business world.

Why did you get involved with IEEE Educational Activities? 

There’s an alignment between the IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB)’s mission and my personal and professional priorities. The EAB establishes policies, fosters collaborations, develops products and services and offers networking opportunities for education across IEEE’s areas of interest, from pre-university to continuing education levels. Each of these realms represents significant public imperatives.

 What do you find exciting about Education Week? 

This week serves the dual purpose of educating both IEEE members and the general public about the extensive educational impact that IEEE, as a professional organization, delivers to the larger community. It also provides a forum for debate and discourse with subject matter experts to identify strategies and pathways forward in addressing educational needs in the STEM fields.


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