DAF-MIT AI Accelerator tackles the challenge of cultivating and growing a world-class AI workforce through education

  • Published
  • By DAF AI Accelerator Public Affairs
  • Department of the Air Force AI Accelerator
This month, the Department of the Air Force-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Artificial Intelligence Accelerator commenced their Lead AI pilot. This pilot, hosted by the AI Accelerator’s Education Research team, is geared towards commanders, senior non-commissioned officers, and civilians in senior leadership roles. The team received over 1,400 applicants and selected 200 participants to formulate a diverse cohort across the DAF, sister services, Department of Defense schoolhouse faculty members, and other government organizations.

During the course’s kick-off event, Col. Garry “Pink” Floyd, DAF AIA director, impelled the participants by asking, “AI is in and is coming to the battle space. The question is what are we bringing and what is the pacing threat bringing?” Col. Floyd continued, “as you learn about the capabilities and limitations of AI, please know that your AI Accelerator team here is working to make AI perform even better for the DAF’s use cases through our various lines of efforts.”

The AIA’s Education Research team is examining the challenge of educating, cultivating, and growing a world-class AI workforce in support of the DoD’s AI Education Strategy. With copious amounts of data and an increased reliance on data-driven technologies, the DoD must adopt AI at speed and at scale. Accelerated adoption is dependent on building and developing a workforce where all grades and roles thrive in the digital era. 

For the past two years, the AI education team has tackled the challenge of how to educate an entire workforce as large and as diverse as the DAF. Previously, AI education occurred in traditional academic settings, consisting of students with prerequisite knowledge and similar backgrounds. However, to cultivate an AI-ready force, the team is investigating the process of teaching AI and ML capabilities to Airmen and Guardians of various rank and responsibility levels - from senior leaders, to developers and acquirers, and to operators who directly use AI enabled capabilities. 

Using the DoD AI Education Strategy as their roadmap, the research team examined variables like pedagogy, content and curriculum, and learning platforms and experiences for the six archetypes - or target audiences - identified in the Strategy. The archetypes are segmented by role and expertise and fall into three major buckets; leaders, developers, and users. Along with a common foundation, concentrations within archetypes allow for tailored learning based on AI-related roles. The current pilot is geared toward senior leaders.  

“In this pilot, [the cohort] will gain a practical grounding in AI and its business applications helping you transform your organizations into the workforce of the future,” said Maj. John Radovan, Deputy Director of the AIA, during his introductory remarks. “The courses will provide a roadmap for the strategic implementation of AI technologies from the leadership context. We hope that you’ll be able to harness key AI management and leadership insights to support informed, strategic decision making.”

The current cohort may volunteer to take part in a corresponding study to better understand the optimal learning experience, guide the design for future AI education programs, and inform how to scale-up versions of the program. The diverse cohort will provide crucial data for the research team to expand and improve for the next iteration. Findings from the study will assist future business decisions to ultimately advance the AI education and training of an elite, AI-ready force. 

To learn more about upcoming AI education opportunities, check for updates on the AIA website.