The Covid-19 has triggered a massive interest in the adoption of digital services and emerging technologies. However, a large number of companies in IT and other sectors are struggling to find skilled people, especially in artificial intelligence, data analytics, IoT and cloud computing.
To help address the skill gap, Intel has launched a new skill initiative called Unnati programme in partnership with leading academic institutions.
Under the programme, Intel will set up data-centric labs within various universities and engineering colleges and provide industry expertise, technology and infrastructure for R&D, in addition to developing the course curriculum.
According to Intel, 15 institutes have already signed up for the labs across nine Indian states and set up centres of excellence in their campus.
Three of the labs are already operational in Galgotias University – Uttar Pradesh, OPJU – Chattisgarh and Vinayaka Mission – Tamil Nadu.
Intel India country head Nivruti Rai said the goal in the next one year is to set up 100 Unnnati labs in collaboration with partners and universities with the aim of reducing the digital skill divide.
“We have plenty of smart people and all we need to do is enable them with opportunities, infrastructure and ecosystem. The goal is to focus on technologies like AI, IoT and enable them through equipment, course curriculum and people who are delivering that course content, so they have an end-to-end kind of capabilities,” Rai added.
The labs will also be set up in other colleges like IIIT Dharwad – Karnataka, Amrita University – Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT)-AP, Yeswant Rao Chavan Engineering College – Maharashtra, T John Engineering College – Karnataka, Marwadi University – Gujarat, and SRM University – Tamil Nadu.
How such programmes can help the industry
According to a 2021 report commissioned by AWS, an average worker in India will have to learn seven new digital skills by 2025 to keep up with the technology advancements and industry demands. Also, digitally skilled workers account for only 12% of India’s workforce.
Rai laments that the need for skilled talent is increasing tremendously and supply cannot match the demand.
“We believe that we have about 1.5 million data experts or resources. By 2024, their demand will grow by 3x. So, a lot of change is required in skilling ourselves. Therefore, the need for programmes such as Unnati is getting stronger,” she adds.
Why collaboration with industry is important for academia?
Kota Reddy, Vice-Chancellor, VIT-AP University, Amravati, cited how successful universities across the world have great collaborations with industry.
“Technology is changing rapidly and students and faculty members have to be up to date with them. Collaborations help students to know the latest technological developments in the industry,” he added.
In the age where an industry certification can open new career opportunities, Rai pointed out “the onus is on everybody to keep our academic institutions relevant and contribute towards making the course curriculum so that it's valuable for our students.”
How much will the labs cost?
The cost of setting up a lab will be borne by all the stakeholders, according to Intel. The programme can be customised, as per the budgets of the academic institute.
Intel will bring the technology and course curriculum, while implementation and maintenance support will be provided by the system integrators.
How is this skill program different from other Intel initiatives?
Intel has been quite active in skill development and has worked with various government agencies to build skills in AI.
According to Rai, this initiative is going to be very different.
“With this lab, we are looking at enabling students with cutting edge research. These students will be doing R&D in the area where you need a server setup, IoT gateway, where multiple funnels of data will come into the server and AI algorithms will run on it.
This is going to give students access to cutting edge R&D capability within their university premise. They do not have to wait to graduate and join a company like Intel and then get access to this sort of complicated setup with that kind of computing power,” she said.