Amazon is launching the inaugural Alexa Young Innovator Challenge, a new educational programme for secondary school pupils to create an Alexa Skill to promote social good in their community.
The programme, designed to inspire young people about the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), will provide teachers and educators with free, curriculum-based lesson plans and materials to engage students, while supporting the development of AI learning in UK classrooms.
The Alexa Young Innovator Challenge launches as new research – commissioned by Amazon from Capital Economics – reveals that jobs that require computer science, AI, or Machine Learning skills are expected to increase by 40% in the next five years and could contribute £71 billion a year to the UK economy. 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.
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.
“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. “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.”
Reinforcing Amazon’s commitment to support the education and skills development of learners from all backgrounds, the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge forms part of Amazon Future Engineer – Amazon’s comprehensive childhood-to-career programme that inspires, educates and enables children and young adults to try computer science and develop coding skills. Since launching in 2019, Amazon Future Engineer has reached over 280,000 students across the UK and through this latest Challenge, it hopes to reach many more.
Students aged 13–18 are invited to code their own Alexa Skill, using AI to help solve societal issues, ranging from climate change and healthcare, to poverty and homelessness. The Challenge opens today until February 3, 2023, with free lesson plans, curriculum-linked learning resources, activity sheets and a coding walkthrough, available on the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge website. There are fantastic prizes available to the winners, including £2,500 worth of tech products and a £2,500 donation to their schools. The 20 runners up will also receive £250 worth of tech products and a £500 school donation.
Judges include Technology Director at Amazon and UK Ambassador for Amazon Future Engineer, Lauren Kisser; YouTuber and computing graduate Tobi Brown, who is a member of The Sidemen; TV presenter and STEM education advocate, Carol Vorderman MBE; computer scientist and entrepreneur Professor Sue Black; and maths and computing prodigy, and Stemettes founder, Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon.
“Supporting women in accessing resources and information to help them consider careers in STEM has always been my number one priority” said Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon. “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.
Bridging the AI skills gap
The need to boost AI learning in UK schools is supported by new YouGov research – also commissioned by Amazon – which suggests that 65% of secondary school teachers agree that AI should be part of their school’s syllabus.
- Among STEM teachers surveyed, 64% have limited access to computer science resources, rising to 79% when focused exclusively on AI.
- While more than two-thirds of all secondary school teachers believe that education in computer science better prepares students for future careers, 28% say AI learning is only part of an opt-in or extra paid-for club and not part of the syllabus.
- 68% of secondary school teachers say that the children in their classes don’t have enough information to understand future career opportunities that involve computer science and AI.
- Of the 72% of secondary school teachers surveyed who agree that schools should be making an active effort to increase education and resources around AI and computer science, three quarters (75%) say that without this, there will be long-term skill gaps.
AI is ‘science fiction’ to one in three secondary school children
Teaching AI in secondary schools will also help the almost half (46%) of secondary school children surveyed who said they would like to know more about careers using computer science and AI:
- One third (33%) of secondary school children said they have only heard of AI in science fiction movies and literature.
- Secondary school parents surveyed by YouGov for Amazon were equally keen to see computer science prioritised in their children’s education, with almost one third (31%) saying they would pay for extra-curricular computer science classes for their children if they could, because their children do not receive these at school.
The Jobs Fair of the Future
In partnership with futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, Amazon has compiled a list of the top ten innovative AI and computer science jobs that could be available to young people in the future - the careers range from metaverse architect to paramedic drone programmer, AI sports coach and environment protection agent. This future world of work was showcased at the Jobs Fair of the Future, hosted at Amazon’s headquarters in central London this week. Attended by students from the local area, the event hoped to inspire young people to explore future opportunities that AI and computer science can offer.
Amazon will also host 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, commissioned by Amazon, 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.
Learn more about Amazon’s Alexa Young Innovator Challenge