Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to Support AI Apprenticeships

Left to right: N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson during a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 18, when they announced NC State will receive a $6 million grant to prepare 5,000 new artificial intelligence (AI) professionals for North Carolina and beyond.
Left to right: N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson during a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 18, when they announced NC State will receive a $6 million grant to prepare 5,000 new artificial intelligence (AI) professionals for North Carolina and beyond.

A new four-year, $6 million project led by North Carolina State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor will support 5,000 workers with training, college coursework and certification to work in the emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI).

Friday Institute Senior Faculty FellowCarla Johnson, Friday Institute Executive Director Hiller Spires, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and NC State College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz
Left to right: Friday Institute Senior Faculty Fellow Carla Johnson, Friday Institute Executive Director Hiller Spires, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and NC State College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz

U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia announced the project today alongside NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson during an event held at NC State’s Hunt Library on Centennial Campus. The grant is one of the labor department’s 28 public-private apprenticeship partnerships totaling nearly $100 million. The grants will support large-scale expansions of apprenticeships in industries including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology.

“This project really exemplifies NC State’s ‘Think and Do’ mentality,” Woodson said. “This grant will fuel collaboration between industry and education, create new on-the-job training for students and play an important role in workforce development in a burgeoning field in North Carolina and across the nation.”

Carla C. Johnson, senior faculty fellow and professor of science education at NC State, is the principal investigator of the project “Artificial Intelligence Academy (AIA): North Carolina Apprenticeships for Innovation,” which will be affiliated with the NC State College of Education’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. The project aims to assist current information technology employees in North Carolina as well as across the U.S. who are underemployed or are seeking an opportunity to move into a different career. It will also target underrepresented workers and those from military populations.

“The greatest strength of our AIA project is the exceptional industry partnerships we have formed,” Johnson said. “Our consortium will lead and inform the important work of building a pipeline of highly qualified and well prepared AI talent for North Carolina and beyond.”

Johnson also serves as the co-principal investigator for another U.S. Dept. of Labor grant, announced last July, for cybersecurity apprenticeships in partnership with Purdue University.

“Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap grants are a major investment to support the expansion of apprenticeships that lead to good paying careers and make the American workforce even stronger,” Scalia said. “Across America, I hear about the need for more skilled American workers. This funding will bolster America’s competitiveness by adding more skilled workers to fill millions of open jobs today and in the future.”

The AIA program will have multiple pathways and will prepare participants for AI careers that are in high demand nationwide. It will include two levels of training and associated certifications: Basic AI (artificial intelligence and data mining focus) and Advanced AI (machine learning and analytics focus). Apprentices will complete the entire program in one year. Industry partners will pay apprentices for at least part-time work during the program and will also pay apprentice tuition and fees for the AI credential program. Companies will benefit from additional workers in their organizations and will have the option to hire the apprentice upon completion of program.

Friday Institute Senior Director for Computer Science Initiatives Dave Frye, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tom Looney, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Friday Institute Program Manager Sam Morris
Left to right: Friday Institute Senior Director for Computer Science Initiatives Dave Frye, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tom Looney, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Friday Institute Program Manager Sam Morris

The project will include partners from a variety of sectors. Industry partners include IBM, CISCO, Citrix, Pentair, Hazardous Software, Diveplane, Randstad Technologies, Battelle Memorial Institute and MCNC. Educational partners include N.C. Community Colleges/Apprenticeship NC, Purdue Global, MACUL and Metriks Amerique. Veterans and other recruitment-related affiliated agencies involved in the project include FASTPORT, VetsinTech, Warrior Maven, Paradigm Shift, Monster Jobs, Dice, Industrial Internet Consortium, Crosby Communications and Clearance Jobs. The NC Chamber will serve as a workforce development partner on the project.