Oil Giant Shell has grand plans to upskill its employees. Source: Shutterstock.

Oil giant Shell has grand plans to upskill its employees. Source: Shutterstock.

Shell employees can now take AI courses during work hours

FOR THE business that wishes transition into digital, the success they achieve in upskilling their employees will be a key determinant of their survival in already saturated markets and industries.

The Royal Dutch Shell PLC recognizes this, and has constantly made upskilling a key part of its business strategy.

“Technology is moving so quickly that if you’re not continually training your people, you’re going to get out of date,” Shell Data Science General Manager Dan Jeaxons said in a statement.

Recently, the oil giant announced that it will extend artificial intelligence (AI) courses to 82,000 of its employees, free of charge.

Employees too, have been proactive in upskilling. About 2000 of them (including petroleum engineers, chemists, and geophysicists) have expressed an interest in these courses, which will be conducted through the online-education platform Udacity.

Known as nano-degrees, these courses will cover AI subfields such as reinforcement learning, computer vision, data analysis, and natural language processing. Courses are project-based, last as long as six months, and can be taken during work hours.

The Anglo-Dutch oil company also has a broader blueprint to embed AI across its operation, a move that has already helped lower costs and avoid downtime.

In the words of Yuri Sebregts, Shell’s Chief Technology Officer, “Artificial intelligence enables us to process the vast quantity of data across our businesses to generate new insights which can keep us ahead of the competition”.

AI skills will help employees in many ways.

For example, they can better predict equipment failures and automatically identify areas within a facility that can reduce carbon emissions, noted Jeaxons.

Jeaxons also mentioned that, on a larger scale, these machine-learning algorithms can increase data processing efficiency, ultimately speeding up the time taken to determine where to drill.

Udacity has been providing corporate courses for quite some time now, and is expecting corporate employee courses to be its largest business this year.

Besides Shell, other enterprises that engage Udacity’s services include Ford Motor and the telecommunications company AT&T Inc.

Shell’s partnership with Udacity goes on to show that upskilling is a task that cannot be completed in isolation.

It is simply impractical for organizations to develop their own upskilling courses, requiring large amounts of time and talent.

Outsourcing these tasks to third party organizations not only reduces time and costs but also ensures that the quality of the courses is up to par.

Finally, upskilling is just one of the many steps in a company’s digital transformation journey.

There needs to be a holistic approach when it comes to transformation, where all aspects (such as company culture, adaptability to technology) are given an equal amount of thought and consideration.