Photo of a previous promotion of the school “IA Microsoft by Simplon” taken before the health crisis
A professional program to train the “artisans” of AI
Since Provence Promotion first met with Microsoft in March 2019 to discuss digital skills development in France, the group has become more deeply involved in the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan area. After having initiated the opening of the riAlity Experiences Lab at the Aix-Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Microsoft AI School in Marseille backed by Simplon PACA is gearing up to welcome its first class of trainees on October 26. The school, which received 65% of its funding from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, encourages people excluded from the job market to get career training in the fields of data and artificial intelligence. Provence Promotion is thrilled to see the culmination of this promising initiative and is sharing access to its network.
When the French government announced there would be 2.4 billion Euros for the digital sector and jobs of the future in its economic stimulus plan, Microsoft partnered with Simplon to commit to setting up an AI training program in Marseille.The Marseille-based “Microsoft AI by Simplon” school is part of a network of 14 schools in France (there will be 20 by the end of the year). It offers a 19-month program divided into seven months of intensive training and one year of apprenticeship. Upon completion, the students will receive a professional certificate in Artificial Intelligence Development recognized by the RNCP (France’s national register of professional certifications) equivalent to a baccalaureate diploma plus 3/4 years post-secondary training.
AI, a boon to the economy and employment
“Adapting to artificial intelligence and creating competencies are Microsoft’s objectives in the region. We have to jump aboard this speeding train and empower companies to seize the opportunities afforded by this innovative technology,” explains Florent Codaccioni, a specialist in Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions in Marseille who was picked to coordinate this regional project.
Acquiring AI skills is fully in line with developments in the economic and job markets. According to Simplon, companies’ needs are expected to more than double by 2023. The first training of this type, which began two years ago in Issy-les-Moulineaux, shows that these AI senior technicians will have no trouble finding work in the job market. This level of qualification is rare and, therefore, highly prized.
Shared values and expertise
“We were in incubation mode when we met with Provence Promotion. When we arranged a tour of the regions of France with the Microsoft executive team, the agency introduced to us to the potential of the Aix-Marseille ecosystem and helped us identify the region’s digital actors and influencers, start-ups, companies, institutions and investors. All that paved the way to open the AI school in Marseille,” notes Florent Codaccioni.
Its interest in inclusiveness and diversity, two core values at Microsoft, led the group in France to work with Simplon, a free digital school for job seekers and a recognized social enterprise. Simplon finds the funding streams, screens the candidates and delivers the training. Microsoft contributes subject matter expertise and supplies material and pedagogical resources.
Simplon PACA goes to bat for Marseille
In early 2020, Simplon PACA secured financing from the Innovation Fund for Professional Training established by the Région Sud administrative region. Thus began the preparations for the future AI school.
“We just wrapped up our candidate selection process with assistance from local employment and job placement specialists, the Employment Division and the local mission, as well as support from economic experts, including the Capenergies competitiveness cluster and companies such as Kaporal and Manageo. Our students have a diverse array of backgrounds, which will ensure the wealth of experience we look for at Simplon,” reports Valérie Lapalus, Training Project Officer.
The only prerequisites were fluency in a programming language, a baccalaureate diploma in math and high levels of motivation. The goals are to improve equal access to opportunities and to nurture a new talent pool.
The importance of partnering with companies
“This training should provide a user response to companies and be relevant to their projects. In the context of the partnership between Simplon and Microsoft, the regional partnership with Capenergies and the support from Provence Promotion, we are actively seeking companies to host apprenticeships. The challenge today is to create as many partnerships as possible,” concludes Cécile Savary, Business and Apprenticeship Manager, who is preparing to announce meaningful collaborations.
The students in this class will be encouraged to work on green projects. It is a color that resonates with the region as it purposefully pursuing solutions to modern environmental problems.
Simplon PACA, which includes the “Fabrique” at the Cloisters in Marseille’s 13th arrondissement and a “Fabrique” in Cannes, has trained more than 450 people in new digital careers since 2017. Once again, France’s southern region is affirming its robust digital identity and its desire to expand its skills base by pairing innovation with job placement.