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FAIR and Rackspace University Launch FAIR Learn to Build an AI-Fluent Workforce

Less than 1 minute Minutes
by Rackspace University Technical Training Team

When generative AI burst onto the scene in 2023, Rackspace Technology® realized that not every employee (aka Racker) was AI-fluent — able to understand, interact with and speak knowledgeably about AI. But the company was making a big move into AI with the launch of Foundry for AI by Rackspace (FAIR™) and realized its entire workforce should be AI-fluent. Enter FAIR Learn — an innovative new AI training program launched in July 2023.

The teams at FAIR and Rackspace University (RU) created the new training curriculum underpinning FAIR Learn within just eight weeks by leveraging a combination of FAIR’s technical expertise and RU’s training proficiency. Today, Rackspace Technology is well on its way to achieving its forward-looking AI training objectives, making sure its technical and non-technical staff are fluent in the language and capabilities of AI. 

a person typing with FAIR trapezoids

Certifying AI literacy on four levels

FAIR Learn activities focus on two areas: the teaching of foundational AI concepts and the attainment of  advanced AI technical certifications from our cloud partners, including Google Cloud, Microsoft® Azure® and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

To recognize each Racker’s progress and increase AI fluency across our organization, FAIR Learn has established four in-house certifications:

  • AI Ready: Recognizes Rackers who complete the foundational AI curriculum.
  • AI Business: Awards Rackers who complete high-level training on a cloud provider’s AI offerings.
  • AI Specialist: Distinguishes Rackers who have at least one advanced AI technical certification from one cloud partner.
  • AI Expert: Honors Rackers who hold two or more advanced AI certifications from cloud partners.

Each FAIR Learn certification is distributed through Pearson’s Credly credentialing service and comes with a badge that Rackers can display on their personal social platforms. Badges allow Rackers to both demonstrate their AI knowledge and inspire their peers to participate in the training program.

AI can be an intimidating topic to study. However, when employees see that their peers in diverse roles hold FAIR Learn badges, it demonstrates that AI mastery is both accessible and achievable for everyone.

FAIR Learn’s three-step employee participation strategy

FAIR Learn launched with one leading objective: to ensure that most Rackers completed at least one FAIR Learn certification by year’s end. To achieve this goal, FAIR and RU worked together to implement a three-step strategy to launch the new curriculum, including supporting, analyzing and promoting participation.

  • Supporting FAIR Learn participation: RU and FAIR wanted every Rackers who was interested in becoming AI literate knew about the training program. The first step was providing Rackers with guidance on how to take part in FAIR Learn. RU produced documentation and job aids to show employees how to locate FAIR Learn training materials, complete the program, and document their success in the learning management system and on their social media platforms.
  • Leveraging Racker analytics: To help ensure that Rackers completed every part of the FAIR Learn curriculum, RU leveraged analytics to find Rackers who had begun the training but stalled during the foundational portions of their courses. RU reached out to let those Rackers know they were close to completing their AI-ready training. RU also provided access to additional guidance on how to locate the training materials and document completion.
  • Promoting FAIR Learn participation: RU and FAIR created a robust promotional program to encourage participation in FAIR Learn. Promotions included FAIR Learn progress updates, with department-level overviews of Rackers who completed the training. They were featured at monthly Tech Talks and quarterly, company-wide open book meetings. The promotional strategies maximized visibility for the program, illustrated leadership’s investment in FAIR Learn, and demonstrated that completing training was a company-wide initiative. 

By December 2023, FAIR Learn had far outperformed its initial objective: Over 80% of Rackers had completed at least one FAIR Learn certification. More exciting was the fact that the first divisions to achieve 100% FAIR Learn participation were departments that are traditionally considered less technology-focused:  human resources and legal. 

FAIR Learn’s best practices for AI training 

Today, FAIR Learn hopes to be an inspiration to other organizations that want an AI-literate workforce. If your organization is considering an AI training initiative, here are three best practices we employed while creating and launching FAIR Learn. Drive your training initiative’s success with these suggestions for planning, launching and evaluating your AI training initiative.

1. Consider the employee’s perspective 

Seek to understand the training program from your employees’ standpoint. Think about every step they will take to participate in and complete the training curriculum. Ask these questions:

  • How will employees learn about the training program?
  • How will they find and sign up to access the content?
  • How will they take the training? For example, will they utilize a learning management system?
  • How will they record their completion internally?
  • How will they publicize their training on social media?
  • How can you evaluate course completion data?

2. Get buy-in from leadership

When leadership supports your program, it’s easier to drive participation. Engage key leadership in your planning and promotion to help maximize visibility and communicate the training program’s importance. Collaborating with leadership is the easiest and most influential way to communicate across the company, including why the training program matters. Also, managers can lead by example by completing the training and then fielding team-member questions.

3. Think holistically

It’s easy to assume that a technical training program will only be useful to technical staff. However, AI technologies are pervasive and will be used by a diverse range of employees in most companies. Training can help everyone understand and use AI in a symbiotic, secure and sustainable manner.

Remember: Company-wide technology training can drive company-wide innovation. When more team members are familiar with an emerging technology, organizations can benefit from diverse perspectives on how that technology can solve pain points

Every organization should help its workforce remain on the cutting edge of new technologies that impact their jobs and lives. Leveraging internal expertise, leadership support and employee engagement can support greater AI innovation. 

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