Wayne Community College Awarded Grant for New AI Lab

Wayne Community College Awarded Grant for New AI Lab

Wayne Community College (WCC) was awarded a $40,000 grant from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Dell Technologies and Intel, as part of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Incubator Network Initiative.

The funds will go toward building an AI incubator on a virtual platform that will provide greater access to AI computing power, tools, and resources to foster the skills needed for future jobs.

A total of 15 community colleges across the country were selected based on criteria determined by AACC, Dell Technologies and Intel. WCC is the only recipient in North Carolina.

“I am thrilled for WCC to be able to partner with the American Association of Community Colleges, Intel, and Dell. This partnership will allow us to utilize their expertise in the field of artificial intelligence and to expand the learning and career opportunities for community college students,” said WCC President Patty Pfeiffer.

“There are currently more than 58,000 remote AI jobs with an average salary of $124,452, according to ZipRecruiter,” she said. “This kind of opportunity is life-changing for our current and potential students because it positively impacts our students’ futures and the futures of their families.”

“This opportunity also allows us to showcase our top-notch faculty who are dedicated to their profession and our students day in and day out,” said Pfeiffer. It was those faculty members who made WCC the second community college in the U.S. and the first in North Carolina to offer a two-year program that focuses on AI.

“There is significant demand for an AI-ready workforce. This grant will enable WCC to continue significant AI-workforce-readiness progress at a time when WCC’s AI training is gaining interest across the nation and internationally,” said Information Systems Technology Department Chair Glenn Royster.

“Our AI Engineer program and AI and Cloud Technologies program are 100% online. A significant strength of the program is that the core AI classes have live sessions that offer students real-time engagement with the instructor. The sessions are recorded for on demand viewing as well,” he said.

“Providing students access to virtual labs and other remote access resources means that no matter where on the planet the student is located, she can access industry-standard AI tools that complement the wide range of hands-on AI experience offered within the respective program,” said Royster.

“Students currently in the program have varied backgrounds. Some are recent high school graduates; some have completed graduate and postgraduate degrees; some students are full-time, but the majority are part-time who hold full-time jobs and are looking to transition themselves to the AI workforce or help transition their organization to an AI workplace,” he said.

In January 2022, AACC, Dell Technologies, and Intel announced a joint commitment to grow Intel’s AI for Workforce Program from 18 states to 50 by 2023.

The Intel AI for Workforce Program helps students gain critically needed job skills in the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence. Intel provides training for faculty and course content. Dell Technologies supplies technical and infrastructure expertise on how best to configure colleges’ AI labs.

In addition to receiving the grant, Wayne Community College has joined the AI Incubator Network to connect with community colleges across the nation on strategic economic development opportunities, participate in discussions about learning pathways, strategize on student engagement in AI programs, and gather best practices from each other and industry leaders.

“AI has become an increasingly important focus for community colleges as providers of workforce education for multiple industries,” said AACC President and Chief Executive Officer Walter G. Bumphus. “Working together with peers and across sectors will enhance the ability of our colleges to advance and scale this curriculum across the nation to ensure that students earn the skills needed to fill these jobs and begin meaningful careers.”

Carlos Contreras, senior director of AI and digital readiness at Intel, agreed on the importance of preparing students for careers that will involve AI. “Today’s students will enter a technology workforce where every organization will focus in some capacity on applying AI to solving problems and creating value for organizations. Intel is excited to partner with the AACC and Dell Technologies to democratize AI technology and enable students to enter that workforce with AI experience.”

“Dell Technologies is committed to transforming 1 billion lives by 2030. By providing learning content for in-demand technology skills and creating artificial intelligence labs for teaching and learning at community and technical colleges across the U.S., we are moving closer to achieving that goal,” said Dell Technologies Senior Strategist for Higher Education Adrienne Garber. “With collaborators like Wayne Community College, we are creating opportunities for underrepresented populations in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and the like to enter careers and fill job openings in much-needed technology fields.”

To learn about WCC’s Artificial Intelligence Engineer program, go to www.waynecc.edu/programs/ai/