An attendee looks on during a media tour of the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on September 20, 2023
A new study also found that employers expect their workers to earn up to 47 per cent more in salaries if they upskill in AI. AFP News

The past few weeks, the AI industry has been dominated by the ongoing drama at OpenAI, after founder and CEO Sam Altman was fired by his board.

Yet under the radar, Amazon has quietly been making big moves in the AI field.

The multinational technology company has launched an AI training program, as new data shows a strong demand for AI-skilled employees.

The program, dubbed the 'AI Ready Initiative', aims to provide free AI skills training to 2 million people globally by 2025.

It comes as a new study by AWS and research firm Access Partnership found hiring AI-skilled talent is a priority for 73 per cent of employers – but among these, three out of four say they are unable to meet their AI talent needs.

AI exploded into the mainstream discourse with the creation of ChatGPT in November last year and has since dominated headlines with concern over its unregulated development, as well as excitement at its potential.

This has led several major tech companies to heavily invest in the technology, with Amazon no exception.

As tech giants, including Google, Microsoft and Meta worked to bolster their standing in the AI space, Amazon backed Anthropic with a multibillion-dollar investment.

The company had already announced it aimed to soup up its Alexa voice assistant with generative AI, which the firm said would allow users to have smoother conversations.

And now, Amazon's latest initiative will reportedly provide eight new and free AI and generative AI courses and an Amazon Web Services Generative AI Scholarship, providing more than 50,000 high school and university students globally with access to a new generative AI course on Udacity.

They're designed for beginners and advanced users in both tech and tech-adjacent roles. Three courses are aimed at business and nontechnical users, while five are designed for developer and technical audiences.

As well as this, Amazon revealed a new collaboration with designed to help students learn about generative AI.

Generative AI is defined as applications typically built using foundation models.

These models contain expansive artificial neural networks inspired by the billions of neurons connected in the human brain.

Foundation models are part of what is called deep learning, a term that alludes to the many deep layers within neural networks. Deep learning has powered many of the recent advances in AI, but the foundation models powering generative AI applications are a step-change evolution within deep learning.

Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, released a document outlining the potential for Generative AI to transform the global economy.

"The goal of AI Ready is to help level the playing field of AI education, supported by the new initiatives we're launching here today," said AWS VP of data and AI, Swami Sivasubramanian. "If we are going to unlock the full potential of AI to tackle the world's most challenging problems, we need to make AI education accessible to anyone with a desire to learn."

"If we are going to unlock the full potential of AI to tackle the world's most challenging problems, we need to make AI education accessible to anyone with a desire to learn," added Sivasubramanian.

Challenges in staffing AI talent extend beyond Amazon, with McKinsey reporting that "the shortage of qualified talent has been a persistent limiting factor in the growth of many high-tech fields, including AI".

Earlier this month, Britain declared an investment of £118 million to make the country "AI match-fit".

This included naming, for the first time, the further 12 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in AI that will benefit from £117 million in previously-announced government backing through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), while a new visa scheme will make it easier for the most innovative businesses to bring talented AI researchers in their early careers to the UK.

The announcement coincided with the world's first 'AI Summit' in Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.

The conference was hosted by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who announced the establishment of a 'world first' UK AI safety institute prior to the event.