With AI skills in high demand, IBM says it plans to train two million learners by 2026 by partnering with universities on a global scale. Additionally, there will be a particular focus on students from typically under-represented communities, says the computer giant.

“AI will be essential in tomorrow’s workforce,” says Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM vice president and chief impact officer. “That’s why we are investing in AI training, with a commitment to reach two million learners in three years, and expanding IBM SkillsBuild to collaborate with universities and non-profits on new generative AI education for learners all over the world.”

The AI education imperative comes on the heels of an IBM executive survey that indicates 4o% of 40% of their workforce, mostly those in entry-level positions, will need to reskill over the next three years to implement AI and automation plans.

IBM is leveraging its own internal experts to act as aids to university faculty who will have access to IBM training material and immersive skill experiences toward certification. IBM also is developing self-directed AI learning pathways. In addition, IBM will offer students free online courses on generative AI and Red Hat open source technologies. Whether schools award course credits for IBM SkillsBuild classes is up to the individual institutions but students will receive IBM-branded digital certificates recognized by employers. Among the course work now offered is: Prompt Writing, Getting Started With Machine Learning, Improving Customer Service With AI, and Generative AI in Action. AI itself will be an aid as enhanced chatbots will help learners.

IBM already offers students free course work in AI fundamentals, chatbots, and key topics like AI ethics. That coursework has already paid off for a number of students like Bria Whitehead of Baton Rouge Community College in Louisiana. “IBM SkillsBuild was extremely valuable in giving me a foundation in the many fields of computer science and gaining fundamental knowledge,” says Whitehead. “The ability to take courses at my own pace, without due dates, was tremendously valuable.” Whitehead subsequently joined IBM’s apprenticeship program. IBM says 7 million people have enrolled in its online courses since 2021. Some 1,000 courses in 20 languages are now offered on a wide range of computer topics ranging from AI to cybersecurity.

An important focus for IBM is traditionally under-represented groups in the IT universe. “Equitable access is a priority for us,” says IBM spokesperson Deirdre Leahy. “We’re ensuring under-represented communities are benefitting from—and not further disadvantaged—by AI advances.”

Among the institutions IBM has already partnered with are the Southern University System, the University of South Carolina, and Homeless Entrepreneur in Spain. IBM believes training is made more effective through the expertise of academic and non-profit partners in local communities, many of which focus on communities that are under-represented in technology.