SkillUp AI COO/CMO Tomoya Izawa Talks About AI Market in Japan

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Please tell us about your company and what is the background of your company’s decision to start training AI (Artificial Intelligence) personnel?

I mainly worked on projects related to AI at my previous job and I realized that there were many people who wanted to learn about AI, so I started a service to train AI talents.

We started the company when we became the first business-certified of Japan Deep Learning Association, which was founded by Tokyo University’s AI Researcher, Matsuo-san.

What type of AI / Data Engineering talents does Japanese market and companies expect from you? (e.g., skillset, experience, etc)

There is a growing need in Japan for people who can develop AI and can plan to fit AI into business to make it profitable.

According to Gartner Hype Cycle, AI is now entering a period of disillusionment, and with the over-optimistic expectations of AI has gone, we’re currently entering a stage where companies are actually looking on how to utilize AI to benefit their business. Japanese companies now are increasingly looking to develop their own AI and are focusing on finding and training new talents.

However, as it is difficult to recruit a high-level AI talent to compete with GAFA and other companies that have already made progress in AI development, many Japanese companies are concentrating on human resource development.

As a result, AI talents are required to have the basic skills in tuning techniques, mathematics and Python skills that are necessary when implementing AI into business.

On top of that, the ability to implement AI quickly is also a requirement.

There is a growing need for people who can keep up with the latest publications on AI and implement them in a testing environment.

Until now, it has been difficult to explain AI and Machine Learning (ML) logically. However, with the recent popularity of Explainable AI (XAI), it has become increasingly difficult to avoid explaining AI to stakeholders and customers when using it in business.

Therefore, there is an increasing demand for people who can master AI and able to explain it to public.

Have you noticed any changes in the needs for AI talent in Japan as a result of COVID-19?

We feel that we have not been affected much by COVID-19 in terms of training AI talents.

For example, some clients took advantage of the movement-control period to join our corporate AI courses on improving their internal AI literacy.

There are many cases of mass layoff of AI talents in overseas’ companies like Uber, but so far we haven’t heard of any cases of layoffs in Japan. To begin with, there are a few companies in Japan that are able to generate direct costs from AI, so they are not able to keep AI talent around. As more and more companies are developing AI on their own, I believe that hiring AI talent will increase in the future.

What is the future plan for your company?

As for the future, we first plan to expand our content in Human Resource Development to Southeast Asia in English.

We have received requests to train AI talents from Vietnam, Malaysia and other Southeast Asia countries who want to work in Japan. In addition, because many companies in Japan still have difficulty in making decisions about AI talents based on their skills, we would like to create an easy-to-understand assessment to increase the number of AI talents accepted.

The Strengths of Skilled AI

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of institution that train engineers in Japan, especially in Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning.

Our company strength is that we train engineers for practical use.

We provide a systematic curriculum that covers everything from the basic to application, which is not covered by ordinary institution.

Our instructors are not only those who have studied AI previously, but they also have experience in developing AI in practical. Our students will undergo a thorough practical training with our instructor.

We are are also researching learning methods and have incorporated the learning methods from University of Minerva into our curriculum

We expect students of SkillUp AI have acquired all the necessary knowledge beforehand, and we use a discussion-style settings in class to strengthen their knowledge.

In addition, we invite guests from companies to share their advice and data & information, so we can actually practice it in class.

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