The Center anchors a bigger MDC tech strategy to expand access to AI learning and build a talent pipeline
By Nancy Dahlberg
In a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning, Miami Dade College will celebrate the opening of its Artificial Intelligence Center at the North Campus. The state-of-the-art facility has been designed to prepare tomorrow’s AI workforce and upskill today’s professionals through classes, workshops, lectures and connections.
“We are so proud to open the doors to MDC’s AI Center, where students and the community can gain the critical skills to ascend within the current job market,” said MDC President Madeline Pumariega, who cut the ribbon. “The fast evolution of technology has increased the demand for trained AI professionals across virtually every industry. MDC is leading the way to fill that gap.”
The facility, over 13,000 square feet in size, will serve the epicenter for all activities, engagement, curriculum, interaction and software that is produced to support MDC’s growth as a leader in applied AI. The AI Center, three years in the making and the product of strategic partnership with industry giants such as Microsoft, Intel and IBM, is just the beginning, the College says.
We all have heard how artificial intelligence is going to replace many jobs of today, including service jobs underlying Miami-Dade’s economy. Yet we haven’t seen enough upskilling and reskilling in AI for all those high-paying jobs that AI will create, said Antonio Delgado, MDC’s Vice President of Innovation and Partnerships, in an interview with Refresh Miami. And that’s where MDC comes in.
“AI is the future and every new company should come with those capabilities. But especially in Miami, we know that we don’t yet have the workforce in AI yet,” Delgado said.
Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 513,000 new AI jobs will be created by 2029. They include occupations like software developer, machine learning engineer and robotics scientist in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, cybersecurity, retail construction and supply chain management.
Miami Dade College believes any student in the College can be exposed to AI from an interdisciplinary perspective and those who want to go deeper can complete certificates or even a full bachelor degree program that is in development now and might be the first one in the nation. “This is a very ambitious plan and the Center is at the core,” said Delgado. “We are not only building a physical space but building the best programs possible.”
Upon entering the AI Center on the second floor of Building 1, visitors are greeted by a holographic concierge powered by IBM’s Watson AI software. The AI Center has dedicated classrooms, quantum computing labs, multi-use spaces and a design-thinking room. A robotics lab and a fully equipped makerspace facilitate taking an AI project from concept to prototype. The AI Center will be a space for degrees, upskilling, reskilling, events, networking, collaboration, research, and also for students doing extracurricular activities, like clubs and competitions. “We want to create an environment where students and anyone from the community can come and be creative and ideally create new startups using AI,” Delgado said.
The College allocated $5 million to build the AI Center and has received $15 million in grants from the Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade County, the City if Miami and the Miami Downtown Development Authority to finance the creation of degrees and professional development opportunities in AI that will all be part of the AI Center.
This AI Center is part of a much bigger initiative at MDC responding to the needs of the community, said Delgado. With the help of its industry advisory committee of national AI experts, MDC will soon be submitting Florida’s first bachelor’s degree curriculum in Applied AI for approval and implementation not only for Miami Dade College but for the encouragement of any college that wants to do this, Delgado said.
The Center will also be for the community at large and that’s why MDC developed an AI speaker series. Talks have addressed AI for supply chain, how Ai is disrupting fashion and other trends. “We are also going to bring a lot of upskilling and reskilling through continuing education, because while we hear about AI disrupting and removing jobs, it’s actually creating new jobs,” Delgado said.
With Microsoft, the College has developed content for the corporate professional to understand how to apply AI into their companies. MDC has partnered with Intel on an AI for Workforce program providing continuing education. It has partnered with IBM on an AI practitioner certificate program. MDC also has a partnership with the Miami-based 4Geeks Academy to deliver bootcamp-style training together.
While the AI Center will be at the North Campus, plans are to bring programing to all campuses. With funding from the DDA, MDC will be developing a mini-center at the Wolfson campus because of the exploding startup scene developing in the downtown corridor. There it will join centers for cloud computing and cybersecurity. “And the idea is to continue to bring in this opportunity in AI to all our campuses.”
The key to success is to start young, Delgado said. “If they don’t come with an interest, it’s going to be hard for us to grow the tech talent in Miami.”
To that end, MDC puts on AI summer camps for high school students, but to continue the programming the rest of the year, MDC is partnering with the Mark Cuban Foundation and Argo AI on a bootcamp held on Saturdays and on internships, Delgado said. “It’s about exposing the students, at no cost, to AI, showing them the future. And with the center now open, it’s going to get bigger and bigger.”
AI for All is a vision ignited by MDC’s president. Over 500 faculty members have gone through training and workshops and then she provided funding for faculty to create projects. For example, an English teacher will be using her instruction of Harry Potter to teach about applications of AI.
“We have philosophy faculty going through training and creating courses already. We have faculty attending the best conferences in the world. We are excited because this is really AI for all,” Delgado said.
“Miami Dade College is working hard to provide what companies need. We’re hearing, we are acting, and we want to involve the community,” he continued. “I’ll be happy to serve as a point of contact to anyone that wants to engage in how can we elevate Miami through artificial intelligence.”
Miami Dade College’s tech strategy also includes connecting students and community members with jobs so tgat companies don’t have to import talent.
“We have amazing talent inside. If we can bring these skills to them and the companies trust what we’re doing, we can create those pathways and that is the bigger vision,” Delgado said. ”Let’s make it happen.”
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