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The first AI school in Belgium opens
15/02/2019

The first AI school in Belgium opens at the initiative of BeCode, Microsoft and partners, to fill the record number of vacancies

  • One Belgian company in two points to the need for IT specialists to innovate
  • BeCode, Microsoft and 5 partners (delaware, The Cronos Group, Faktion, KPMG and Xylos) jointly launch the first AI school in Belgium to tackle the shortage of AI profiles
  • The ambition is to open 9 schools in Belgium and train 350 to 500 people per year
  • The AI School is accessible and free for everyone to encourage diversity

In order to tackle the acute shortage of AI experts, BeCode, Microsoft and five founding partners – delaware, The Cronos Group, Faktion, KPMG and Xylos –  are joining forces. Together they open today the very first AI school in Belgium in the presence of Philippe De Backer, Minister of Digital Agenda. For the first time, competitors from the ICT sector are joining forces to fill vacancies differently than the traditional competition for talent. The AI School welcomes 20 students in April for a 10-month training program. Candidates who want to register for the new AI school don’t need prior knowledge.

Leader in AI investments but a shortage of AI experts

The recent research "AI in Belgium" indicates that 75% of Belgian companies have already taken the first steps in artificial intelligence. On the other hand, Belgian business leaders indicate that it is difficult to attract employees with the right AI skills. That slows down innovation. Technology federation Agoria has estimated the number of digital vacancies at 16,000, while over 23% of young people in our country are unemployed. It has inspired BeCode and Microsoft to open the first school for artificial intelligence (AI) in Belgium with five partners.

"Belgium is in the European leading group when it comes to investments in AI. So the technology is ready, only the difficult recruiting is still in the way of a connection with the top countries", says Didier Ongena, General Manager of Microsoft Belux. "With the right competences, Belgium can benefit more from AI."

The AI School offers ten months of free training

The first 20 students start their training program in April already. The courses are organized by the initiator BeCode on the BeCentral campus in Brussels, and facilitated by the founding partners. The students will follow a seven-month training in data management and artificial intelligence. Afterwards they complete their theoretical training with an internship of three months. Participation in the program is free.

The project is fully in line with BeCode's reason for existence that arose 18 months ago. CEO Karen Boers: "The combination of an alternative recruitment, open to everyone, with an active pedagogy and a strong focus on both soft skills and technical skills allows us to broaden the range of talents considerably."

Expansion is already planned

BeCode and Microsoft want to expand rapidly with 8 new AI schools. The ambition is to train five hundred students every year. The five partners therefore call on companies and governments to join the initiative of the AI School, in order to start more courses and strengthen the competitiveness of this country.

Philippe De Backer, Minister of Digital Agenda, Telecommunications and Post, responsible for Administrative Simplification, applauds the initiative: "With the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence, we are experiencing the fourth industrial revolution. This is more about brains and creativity than muscle strength and sweat. The opening of the AI School is already the first step to teaching people the right skills. I believe that AI can become the job engine of the future for our country. That is why I am working hard on an AI strategy in Belgium. This keeps our country ambitious and we prepare for the future. "

What AI School partners say about the initiative:

"Our customers and discussion partners have high expectations about artificial intelligence. As a prominent partner of Microsoft, it goes without saying that we help shape this initiative. We have the ambition to train hundreds of AI specialists to ensure that we don’t miss the boat Belgium." - Dirk Deroost, co-founder of The Cronos Group.

"delaware is very happy to support the AI School. On the one hand because it will build a strong Belgian community of AI experts, on the other hand because it also gives new opportunities to people without prior IT training. That win-win situation is the reason for us to sign up today." - Peter Oyserman, Founding Partner delaware.

"We at Faktion are convinced that lifelong learning is crucial for building a great career. That works even better if you also lead a happy life. With our AI technology we ensure a positive change in the lives of people and organizations. It is the core motivation to support the AI School." - Joeri Van Steen, managing partner of Faktion.

"The digital challenge for companies is mainly to find the right people on the job market. With the AI School we hope that motivated people - with different backgrounds - will make the choice to retrain and fully explore the possibilities of AI." - Koen Maerevoet, CEO of KPMG Belgium.

"Through our educational branch, Xylos actively participates in the new AI School. In a so-called cross-learning process, we will provide the students with both theory and practical experience that will help them in their future jobs. We want to give talent the chance to develop quickly and well in this growth segment." - Ludo Wijckmans, CEO of Xylos.

More information about the training and basic conditions can be found here.