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New program offers college students access to free data science and machine learning – TechRepublic

Databricks University Alliance pairs with universities to provide online tools and cloud platforms to add competitive skills to matriculation.

Databricks announced on Monday a free global program that gives college students the opportunity to enhance their degrees with classes in data science and machine learning. 

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Ryan Boyd, head of developer relations at Databricks, said exposing “students to the online tools and cloud platforms that enable highly scalable data science and machine learning,” provides them critical knowledge and experience needed to drive innovation as they join data teams across the global workforce. The fate of university life in general is under question, as schools grapple with the idea of a full in-person fall semester (and beyond), or a wholly virtual one, driven by the coronavirus pandemic.  Students in the new Databricks University Alliance program will not only have their university degree in hand, but also what Boyd called “deeper access to online tools, materials and cloud resources, especially as they shift from in person to virtual instruction.” SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)

The data and AI company has considerable ties to universities and colleges. “Databricks has strong roots within higher education,” Boyd said. 

“Our company was founded by Ph.D. students at UC Berkeley, who are the original creators of the open-source project Apache Spark, and some of the world’s most popular open source projects including Delta Lake and MLflow. Many of our founding team members are also professors at leading universities,” Boyd explained. “As a company, our mission is to help data teams solve the world’s toughest problems, and we believe this journey starts in the classroom.” SEE: Extended Sick Day policy (TechRepublic Premium) Colleges that will begin the inclusion of the DUA, without cost to the school or student, include the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and the University of Washington. In this tough job market, the demand for data scientists, engineers, and analysts has prevailed and Databricks believes it will further escalate. The company cites within the last five years, Google searches for “data science” has quadrupled, and is ranked by experts as one of the top 10 best jobs in America each year since 2015. To meet the high demand and inevitable competition, graduates are expected to be armed with the skills they’ll need to join an increasingly competitive industry.  DUA not only partners with universities, but also “with leading cloud companies,” according Boyd, and it is an effort to encourage the stream of students trained on cutting-edge data analytics. Students will have access to tutorials, content and training materials on open-source tools, including Apache Spark, Delta Lake and MLFlow. Companies will then benefit from a more competent pool of data science and machine learning professionals to hire in the workplace, the company said  To recent grads facing an uncertain future, Boyd said: “A solid background in math and statistics is a necessary starting point for a career in data science. Beyond that, one of the main differentiators among aspiring data scientists, engineers, and analysts in the job market is the amount of hands-on experience they bring to the opportunity.” SEE: Top 100+ tips for telecommuters and managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic) “When given a choice among virtual education options, look for those that are led by instructors with good ratings from students, have hands-on project work as a core component, and leverage public cloud infrastructure for learning data science at scale with open source tools.”

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