As the creator of AI Singapore’s AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP), it’s incredible to see how much it has grown over the past 5 years. From humble beginnings, AIAP has become a thriving programme that’s elevating Singapore’s AI capabilities.
I still remember when we first launched AIAP in 2018 – our team was tiny, with just 4 AI engineers and data scientists. We were tasked with enabling 100 AI industry projects (the 100E programme) and were trying to hire Singaporean AI and ML engineers to join our team. I remember clearly in our first recruitment exercise, I received over 300 resumes, and only 10 were from Singaporeans. I managed to hire one from that pool. I told my team as AI Singapore; we need most of our engineers to be Singaporeans.
Our solution was to build that expertise ourselves. We designed AIAP to take in passionate Singaporeans who have been studying AI/ML independently but probably lacked working on a real end-to-end AI project and hence find it difficult to get hired as most technology companies hiring Ai talents ask for a degree in AI and relevant experience. The AIAP was conceived to provide these professionals with the real-world, end-to-end experience of building and deploying an AI model leveraging on the 100E projects.
This was a win-win-win scenario. A win for the apprentice as he or she gets to work on a real-world project and can put that onto her resume. A win for the 100E project sponsor, as they get their AI project done and potentially can hire the apprentice as a full-time AI engineer. A win for AI Singapore as we can deliver a completed 100E to a Singapore organization.
The early AIAP batches were small, with lots of learning along the way as we refined the curriculum and training approach. Our intuition was proven right, and we found the carefully selected apprentices able to deliver real-world AI projects supported by our AI Mentors after a short 2-months of additional deep-skilling in Ai and software engineering!
Seeing their growth and success was tremendously encouraging. It proved Singaporeans could become world-class AI talent given the right environment and opportunity. As the programme expanded, I was overwhelmed by the interest and applications we received.
Now, over 300 apprentices graduate from AIAP and we are on track to expand the AIAP program and graduate at least 100-150 apprentices per year in the near future. Many have become full-time AI experts, while others inject AI skills into existing roles. Alumni actively pay it forward, too – sharing their knowledge as AIAP mentors, training the next generation. They also provide a powerful support system for current apprentices.
With a steady pipeline of talent, we’ve delivered impactful AI solutions for over 100 companies. These projects showcase how AI can transform industries, from increasing efficiency to creating new products and services.
Most importantly, AIAP has changed lives by unlocking the potential of so many Singaporeans. Many from non-STEM backgrounds who have successful crossed-over and enter the AI workforce. They’ve found purpose and meaningful careers in this emerging field. It’s heartening to see apprentices thrive during and after the program.
There’s still a long way to go for Singapore’s AI journey. But AIAP alumni will be the ones leading the charge – creating technologies, training others, and pushing boundaries. I’m excited to see the new frontiers they will conquer!