Impact Blog

Fostering the next generation of AI and emerging technologies graduates

January 2022

The increasing prominence of emerging technologies in economies across the globe is driving demand for highly skilled digital workers. This workforce need is being further intensified by huge growth in the blockchain and data markets.

The need for well trained professionals in fields such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, cyber security and quantum computing will be especially acute in Australia over the coming decade and beyond.

A study by the CSIRO’s Data61 and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science estimated digital technologies, including AI, will potentially be worth AU$315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028.

AI’s worth is estimated to be similarly significant at an international level, with the sector set to be worth up to AU$22.17 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

The CSIRO report highlights the significance of the Australian information, communications and technology (ICT) sector, reporting that 663,100 workers were employed in fields related to AI in 2019.

However, it is a workforce that will need to grow considerably. According to the CSIRO report, Australian industry is estimated to need up to 161,000 new AI specialists by 2030.

A recent study by RMIT and Deloitte suggested that this demand for digital workers will be further heightened by the economic disruption and recovery efforts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the biggest emerging skill needs for the Australian economy is digital skills. Australia will need 156,000 more digital technology workers by 2025, representing one in four jobs created during that period,” the report suggests.

AI skills development is well established across Australian universities, companies, governments and within the community sector. Graduate research programs play a crucial role in addressing Australia’s workforce needs within these industries.

Expected to co-fund at least 480 scholarships over the coming years, the CSIRO’s Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Graduates Program and the Next Generation Emerging Technologies Graduates Program are initiatives that directly respond to the need to attract and train a new generation of AI and emerging technology professionals.

Funded through the Australian Government’s Digital Economy Strategy and Artificial Intelligence Action Plan, the program involves the CSIRO partnering with industry and universities to grow a pipeline of highly skilled graduates equipped to thrive in Artificial Intelligence and emerging technology industries.

Next Generation Graduates programs overview

At least 480 nationally competitive scholarships are expected to be funded through the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Graduates and Next Generation Emerging Technologies Graduates programs. This funding aims to help attract and train a new generation of technology experts.

The program will see students participating in industry-led research projects and placements. The scholarships will be co-funded with industry for postgraduate students at all levels.

Students will enrol as part of a cohort or as groups whose individual projects all contribute to a larger multi-disciplinary program of work.

Program objectives

The Next Generation Graduates Programs aim to build a group based, industry driven, multi-disciplinary graduate training program. Cohorts will work on related projects, encompassing multi-disciplinary perspectives, to tackle real-world challenges.

Adopting collaborative peer-to-peer learning models, students will leverage their different backgrounds and skills to create a rich and diverse research environment.

The first stage of the Next Generation programs will involve recruiting universities and industry partners with impact driven projects. Students will then be able to apply for scholarships to take part in these projects.

Program priority areas

Projects will focus on real-world challenges aligned to the priority areas defined in the Australian Government’s Digital Economy Strategy 2030.

Priority areas include:

  • Digital SMEs – lifting digital capability and adoption across the economy to support new ways to work and do business.
  • Modern industry sectors – supporting globally competitive export sectors operating at the digital frontier, including manufacturing, mining, agriculture and construction.
  • Dynamic and emerging tech sector – building emerging technology capability and accelerating the growth of tech start-ups in areas like fintech and regtech that can drive an uplift in the rest of the economy.
  • Digital government and services – delivering simple, secure and trusted essential services for frictionless interactions.

Project proposals can also align with the Modern Manufacturing Strategy and National Manufacturing Priorities.

Guidelines and information session

Next Generation Graduates Programs Guidelines, FAQs and application templates are available from the CSIRO.au website.

A program information session will be held on Monday, 7 February 2022 in which the Next Generation Graduates team will present the opportunities for industry, universities, researchers and students, and will answer questions about the application and funding processes. For further information and to register visit the CRISO.au website.

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