Since its launch in September 2018, the Certificate in Machine Learning offered by York University’s School of Continuing Studies has reached capacity and is filled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science enthusiasts hoping to break into the dynamic and emerging field of machine learning.
Program Manager Sean Woodhead took an innovative approach to designing the Certificate in Machine Learning. He emphasized career support, networking opportunities and access to cutting edge technologies to underpin the real-world projects that students use to demonstrate their learning to potential employers. Students attend key industry events, like the Toronto Machine Learning Summit, which attracts top talent and employers from the data science field, giving them the chance to make invaluable connections before entering the job market.
“It’s paramount that our students are well-positioned for career success in this highly competitive field,” explains Woodhead. “Ensuring our graduates go on to reach their career goals takes more than designing a solid curriculum. They need opportunities to engage with the industry and community to help expedite their entry into a relevant, fulfilling job. It is important that we help each of them build a professional network, learn in environments other than the traditional classroom, and gain multiple opportunities to demonstrate to companies how they stand apart from graduates of other similar programs in Canada.”
Current student Lynn Liu agrees. “I’m passionate about machine learning and AI,” she says. “I started to look for a university certificate about one year ago and couldn’t find one in North America. When I searched again in May 2018, I found The York University School of Continuing Studies had just launched their program.”
Liu paid a visit to the School of Continuing Studies and spoke with the program manager. She said the program offered more than she had expected.
“It has a very clear goal strategically and it is very employment driven. I’ve taken many continuing education courses before, and it’s the first time I found a continuing education certificate that offers a capstone project that connects students with real business settings,” says Liu. “It not only ensures a student can do the work individually, but also increases the chances for the student to get hired. By the end of the program, I’ll have several hands-on projects in my portfolio to show a potential employer. It’s the first time that I’ve found a continuing education certificate that does so much work to help students connect with the industry and increase the possibility to get hired.”
Liu says she wants to move into a professional role in the machine learning/AI field, perhaps as a machine learning engineer or data scientist. She is excited about what the future of AI. “I know that AI is a technology trend in the next 30 years, and Toronto has many opportunities in this area. I hope to break into the job market in 2019. York University is a well-recognized institution, and this certificate can help to open the door to many employment opportunities.”
Currently, there are many online machine learning resources to teach technical skills and theory, but those are not good enough, says Liu. “Companies need machine learning professionals who know not only how to code and build models, but also to find the most usable model and generate real business value. I’ll be able to show my project portfolio during the interview process, and I get to connect with my peers, who have similar career goals to my own. We help each other by sharing information and experiences.”
Beyond the basic course content, the program also provides tickets to the Toronto Machine Learning Summit. Liu attended the pre-conference workshop, the two-day conference and two evening events (Women in Data Science and a career fair). She says she had an opportunity to talk to key contacts in-person and received valuable hiring insights. “By the end of the conference, I was connected with a number of professionals via LinkedIn, including start-up companies, recruiters and machine learning professionals,” says Liu.
“If you don’t have much relevant education/work experience, it’s a great program to get in to the door of machine learning,” says Liu. “The instructors are great. They are all professionals who have worked in the field for many years. They share a lot of valuable industry experience in class and answer questions quickly. In addition, they always find the best online resources and pass them along to us, which provides great direction and guidance. If you are looking for a hands-on professional education program which is very employment driven, this program is a good investment.”
To learn more, visit the Certificate in Machine Learning website.