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The “From Data to Decision” Training Program

By: George Waggott Law, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student,

George Waggott Law

This article summarizes a recent report from the "From Data to Decision" project. The project, which is a collaboration between IVADO and the University of Montreal, offered a short, online certified AI program for professionals and leaders. This initiative aimed to fulfill

the labour market's growing need for AI skills by providing a flexible, customized learning experience. Despite facing challenges, the project exceeded many of its targets, developing nine courses on six themes, training more than 3,000 participants, and attracting international interest while promoting diversity and inclusion.

The program was developed to address the rapid evolution of AI and the corresponding skills gap in the labour market. AI's influence is expanding across various sectors, yet many professionals and leaders feel unprepared to integrate AI into their work environments. The project's primary objectives were to develop a self-diagnosis tool, implement a training module of courses, award professional certifications, and analyze data and feedback.

The Issue

The rapid evolution of AI has created a significant demand for related skills, which many professionals currently lack. This skills shortage affects industries across Canada, as employers struggle to identify and capitalize on AI opportunities. The program aimed to increase AI knowledge and skills among Canadian professionals, with the aim of assisting these newly trained individuals in supporting the adoption of AI by their organizations.

Program Implementation

The project developed a series of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on topics including data science, machine learning, deep learning, decision sciences, bias, discrimination, fairness in AI, and data science in health. These courses, available in English and French, were asynchronous and ranged from 12 to 25 hours. Participants could select courses based on a self-diagnostic tool, which guided them according to their AI awareness levels. Upon completion, participants received professional certifications from the University of Montreal.

Challenges and Achievements

Despite facing the challenges of operating the program during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program achieved important successes. It developed nine MOOCs on six topics and delivered them to over 3,000 participants. A surprising 66% of participants had low AI awareness, and nearly 60% were from other countries.

Importance and Future Directions

AI skills are crucial for Canada’s economic productivity and transition to a net-zero economy. The unexpected international participation highlighted a potential lack of awareness among Canadian workers and employers about the urgency of acquiring AI skills. The Employment and Skills Survey indicated that 43% of workers had no skills training in the past year, with only 24% of employer-paid training being focused on AI-related skills.

Policymakers and employers must recognize the need to upskill workers in AI. Employers should invest in AI training for their workforce, while governments should incentivize such investments and support organizations dedicated to training workers in these skills.

IVADO plans to continue utilizing the self-assessment and MOOC modules developed in this project. Future goals include exploring a stand-alone professional certification and offering training in additional languages, such as Spanish, to cater to the growing international interest.

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