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Amazon brings Alexa Young Innovator Challenge to Wales as new research reveals STEM gaps in Welsh schools

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New research from Amazon reveals a need to boost the STEM skills gap in Welsh schools to help meet future demand for jobs in computer science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

The research, which quizzed secondary school teachers in Wales, is released as it’s also revealed that teaching Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills in secondary schools could help to fill increasing demand for computer science and AI related roles, supporting on average £71 billion of economic output annually to 2030 in the UK economy, according to a report published by Amazon and Capital Economics. 

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The need to boost AI learning in Welsh schools is supported by new YouGov research –commissioned by Amazon – among secondary school teachers and parents. The research shows: 

  • 69% of secondary school teachers surveyed in Wales agree that AI should be part of their school’s syllabus, while 86% of teachers in Wales surveyed believe access to free AI and computer science learning resources linked with the national curriculum would help students better engage in computer science. 
  • Among Welsh teachers surveyed, 64% have limited access to computer science resources, rising to 78% when focused exclusively on AI. 
  • While more than two thirds (69%) of secondary school teachers surveyed in Wales believe that education in computer science better prepares students for future careers in all sectors, a third (32%) say AI learning is only part of an opt-in or extra paid-for club and not part of the syllabus. 
  • Almost three quarters (74%) of secondary school teachers surveyed in Wales say children don’t have enough information to understand future career opportunities that involve computer science and AI. 
  • Almost three quarters (70%) of secondary school teachers surveyed in Wales who think schools should be making an active effort to increase education and resources around AI and CS, say that without increased STEM education and resources, there will be long-term skill gaps

The research comes as Amazon launches the inaugural Alexa Young Innovator Challenge in Wales, an educational programme for secondary school pupils to create an Alexa Skill to promote social good in their community.

Designed to inspire young people about the potential of AI, teachers and educators will be able to access free curriculum-linked lesson plans and materials to engage students, while supporting the development of AI learning in classrooms.

By taking part, schools will have the chance to win prizes, including £2,500 worth of tech products for the winner and a £2,500 donation to their school.

The 20 runners up will also receive an Amazon gift card to the value of £250, redeemable on Amazon.co.uk and £500 will be donated to their school.

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Amazon’s research also estimates that demand for jobs that require computer science, AI or machine learning skills in the UK are expected to increase by 40% over the next five years. 

In addition, research that looked at the potential future use of AI by UK businesses estimates that expenditure on AI-related labour could increase from £46 billion in 2020 to between £80 billion and £103 billion by 2025. 

In order to have enough AI talent in the UK workforce to fill computer science jobs by 2030, students will need to experience some form of AI-based learning during secondary school.  

An insufficient supply of skilled labour is one of the reasons why UK businesses are slow to adopt AI, with just 15% of UK businesses having currently adopted the technology.

“AI is the world’s fastest growing technology and the UK is striving to be among the world’s leaders in this field, with 56% of businesses planning to increase investment in AI technologies within the next three years,” said Lauren Kisser, Technology Director at Amazon and UK Ambassador for Amazon Future Engineer

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“Through the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge, we hope to not only build confidence in students’ ability to understand and control this incredible technology but also inspire young minds, regardless of their background, to realise their potential as creators, thinkers and builders of the future; using AI to create innovative solutions to real world problems.”

Amazon announces the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge as it reveals ten innovative AI and computer science jobs that could be available to young people in the future. Compiled in partnership with futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, the careers range from metaverse architect to paramedic drone programmer, AI sports coach and environment protection agent.

The jobs highlight the ways that AI and computer science could be used to tackle societal issues, including sustainability – insight that is particularly relevant to the one in five (22%) secondary school children who felt AI could be used to speed up problem solving around climate change. 

“There is no doubt that AI will play a vital role in our future, but it’s far more than just the development of the hardware – we need people at every stage of the process to make real progress. There is a real misconception around developing technologies, and by putting together this list of future jobs we wanted to illustrate not only where we see AI supporting tomorrow’s world of work, but how vital people are within this process,” said Dr. Ian Pearson. 

“Almost half (47%) of students surveyed said they don’t understand what jobs they can do in the future that involve AI so we hope that showing them these innovative, exciting jobs, and the skills that are required, we can inspire them to consider roles within technology and computer science.”

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The future world of work is being showcased at Amazon’s Jobs Fair of the Future, hosted at its headquarters in central London. Attended by students from the local area, the event hopes to inspire young people to explore future opportunities that AI and computer science can offer.

The students will take part in activities relating to the AI assisted jobs of the future, including drone learning and management, taking a shot against an AI goal keeper – Robokeeper, the fastest keeper in the world – and exploring the future of voice activated technology. 

Amazon is also offering virtual Class Chats with schools across the UK, where Amazon leaders and current apprentices will share insights from their education, career journey, and discuss the future potential of AI with teachers and students.

This hands-on experience, and opportunity to engage with technologists at Amazon, comes as research reveals that 82% of secondary school teachers believe their students would be more interested in AI and computer science if they had the opportunity to speak to industry leaders in these sectors.

The launch of the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge reinforces Amazon’s commitment to support the education and skills development of learners from all backgrounds. It forms part of Amazon Future Engineer – Amazon’s comprehensive childhood-to-career programme that inspires, educates and enables children and young adults to realise their potential in computer science through bursary schemes, teacher training and online tutorials. Since launching in 2019, Amazon Future Engineer has reached over 280,000 students across the UK.

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Students aged 13–18 are invited to code their own Alexa Skill, exploring the possibilities of using AI to help solve societal issues ranging from climate change and healthcare, to poverty and homelessness.

Winners will be selected in two age categories, together with 20 runners-up, by judges including Technology Director at Amazon and UK Ambassador for Amazon Future Engineer, Lauren Kisser; Computing graduate and Youtuber Tobi Brown, who is a member of The Sidemen; TV presenter and STEM education advocate Carol Vorderman, computer scientist and entrepreneur Professor Sue Black; and maths and computing prodigy, and Stemettes founder, Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon. 

Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon said of her involvement: “Supporting women in accessing resources and information to help them consider careers in STEM has always been my number one priority. 

“The tech revolution never stops and we know that AI is going to be a vital part of the future of the industry so it’s great to see an initiative like the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge identifying this and looking to help inspire the kids of today, who will be our future scientists and technologists.

“I am passionate about the role of creativity and imagination in technology and development, and I think showing kids through the Jobs Fair of the Future what tomorrow’s world of work could look like does exactly this.”

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For further information about the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge visit https://www.amazonfutureengineer.co.uk/ayic

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