Amazon launches the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge to help young people bridge the skills gap, as research shows demand for jobs that require computer science, AI or machine learning skills are expected to increase by 40% over the next five years
London, 8 November 2022 – Amazon has launched the inaugural Alexa Young Innovator Challenge, an educational programme for secondary school students aged 13 – 18 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 UK 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.
New research – commissioned by Amazon from YouGov – found that currently, 79% of STEM teachers have limited access to AI resources and 64% to computer science resources in general, highlighting the real difficulties schools face when trying to engage students in this vital field. 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.
YouGov’s research showed strong support for boosting AI learning in UK schools among secondary school teachers, students and parents, with 65% of secondary school teachers agreeing that AI should be part of their school’s syllabus, and 87% of the UK STEM teachers surveyed believing access to free AI and computer science learning resources linked with the national curriculum would help students better engage in computer science. 69% of all secondary school teachers believe that education in computer science better prepares students for future careers in all sectors.
By taking part in the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge, students will be able to explore 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; 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.
Chris Hillidge, Director of STEM at The Challenge Academy Trust said: “This competition is an amazing opportunity for students to engage with coding in a real-world context and use ‘tech for good’. Coding in a real world context is a valuable learning opportunity for young people and the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge gives young people to influence the world around them in a positive way.”
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 surveyed said they have only heard of AI in science fiction movies and literature.
To help remedy this, 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 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.
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 what tomorrow’s world of work could look like does exactly this.”
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.
“AI is the world’s fastest growing technology[i] 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,[ii]” 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.”
For further information about the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge visit https://www.amazonfutureengineer.co.uk/ayic
[ii] Amazon Future Engineer, September 2022, Capital Economics
Capital Economics methodology
This research has been commissioned by Amazon from Capital Economics, an independent macroeconomics research consultancy. The views expressed remain those of Capital Economics and are not necessarily shared by Amazon. While every effort has been made to ensure that the data quoted and used for the research behind this document is reliable, there is no guarantee that it is correct, and Capital Economics Limited and its subsidiaries can accept no liability whatsoever in respect of any errors or omissions. This document is a piece of economic research and is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor to solicit dealing in securities or investments.
Based on official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Capital Economics has used a broad definition of ‘computer science related’ jobs to estimate the number of computer science related jobs in the UK economy and their contribution to economic output. A range of data and projections on demographics, the labour market, economic growth and adoption of technology have been used to generate estimates of future demand for computer science roles.
YouGov parents, secondary school teachers and secondary school pupils survey
All UK parent, UK secondary school teachers and UK secondary school pupils figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2031 teachers (1,792 secondary school teachers and 239 headteachers), 1,079 teenagers aged 13-18, and 1,002 parents of children aged 18 and under. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd – 21st September 2022. The survey was carried out online.