What

To create new high paying jobs in the high growth industry of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with an AI Jobs for Oregon statewide ballot initiative proposed for 2024 to be named the Oregon AI Jobs Growth Act of 2024.

Goal:

  • To position Oregon as an AI superpower for high paying jobs,
  • Create 100,000 jobs that pay $100,000 or more in 10 years, 
  • Funded by an investment of $1B over 10-15 years, resulting in:
  • Direct annual increase of $20B in Oregon GDP and $2.5B annual increase in taxable revenue by 2034.

How:

  • An Oregon AI Growth Commission to make Oregon an AI industry investment magnet,
  • An Oregon AI Development Department (reports to the AI Growth Commission)
    • Key responsibilities include:
    • Developing and funding education curriculum across the state at K-12, community college, and 4-year institutions.
    • Fostering job ready skills through AI Accelerations Centers for prototype and product engineering while building skills through internships, apprenticeships, and funded or collaborative work.
    • Creating shared services in product management (commercial, legal, sales, etc.) to support early-stage entrepreneurial efforts and help innovative prototypes start the journey to more industrial products in the market.
  • A network of Oregon AI Acceleration Centers (Reports to the Director of AI DD)
    • Key responsibilities include:
    • Creating job-ready engineering skills through development of prototypes and products in AI/ML, Data, and Cloud.
    • Building a state-wide network to foster AI/ML, Data, and Cloud skills development.
    • Collaborating with private sector partners to train and place skilled resources into paid positions.
  • An Oregon AI Growth Fund funded by a state income tax provision.
  • Annual funding of $75-$100m/year invested in education, job ready skills, and product development 

Design Parameters

  • All parameters to be discussed
  • 60% of funds to be spent outside of the Portland Metro area in rural counties and towns.
  • A maximum of 30% of funds will be spent on education, 70% on job ready skill development.
  • At least 2 AI Acceleration Centers in each Congressional District (an incentive for every Representative to channel federal opportunities to Oregon AI Acceleration Centers)
  • No more than 40% spent on any one cloud provider (exceptions by approval of AI Growth Commission)
  • No more than 20% of funding on permanent staff (exceptions by approval of AI Growth Commission)
  • Oregon AI Development Department and Oregon AI Acceleration Centers may accept funding from third parties and other federal, state, or local governments to produce prototypes, products, and services.
  • The Oregon AI Acceleration Centers may work with any provider of services as long as said collaboration does not represent more than 10% of total active work.
  • The Oregon AI Development Department may invest in promising products and ideas with market potential and may take a minority ownership/equity stake in lieu of payment (subject to approval by the Oregon AI Growth Commission)
  • The Oregon AI Development Department may not invest more than 2.5% of annual resources in any one product without approval of the AI Growth Commission.
  • Activities overseen by AI Growth Commission to become self-sustaining through fees, product license sales, and IP licensing within 10-15 years (TBD) unless otherwise authorized.

Conclusion

Millions of jobs will be created over the next 5-10 years in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Science, and Cloud.  With a bold bet on the future, Oregon can get 100,000 of these jobs that pay $100k or more per year within the next 10 years.  These are jobs that will help our children prosper, support communities all over Oregon, and bridge the urban/rural divide.

FAQS:

What experience do you have in this field?

During the last five years of my career, my role was to support prototype and product development in cutting edge new technologies (Cloud, AI, Machine Learning, DevOps) for teams working with clients all over the world (as well as time spent creating and leading executive education and enablement).  Specifically, I helped review and identify good candidate ideas, match requesting people with skilled teams that could do the work, and then provide product management troubleshooting for a portfolio of work to help these teams succeed.  In the process, I was able to work with and see an amazing team of skilled experts working across all of the disciplines needed for prototype and product development and experience how this works at scale in the context of a large company. With the idea for AI Jobs for Oregon, I’m attempting to distill those insights and the knowledge of what kind of skilled experts are involved in order to propose a similar structure in a state like Oregon. The structure and focus on building prototypes and products is, in essence, a factory for creating job-ready skills and a springboard to launch many thousands of people into high paying careers.

Are these jobs just for PhDs in AI?

No, a common misconception is that AI products only involve experts in AI.   The classic PhD in Artificial Intelligence is just a single resource at the very tip-top of a larger team.   To develop an AI or Machine Learning asset, you need an experienced data scientist (that’s the PhD or equivalent).  But they will typically be a shared resource giving direction to more junior data scientists and data technicians of varying skills levels, some of which may be entry level.  

AI/ML applications are built on large datasets and this data has to be loaded, stored, manipulated, and transformed often at very large scale and in real time.  To create that underlying solution structure, you need cloud developers to do infrastructure and platform development work.  

Once you grow beyond a simple prototype and you are going to have a larger team of people at varying levels of skill and experience doing the development work, you also need project management, security, operations, and other resources involved to varying extents as well.  

But that’s not all.  If the asset demonstrates market potential to be used in more than one client, then you have to scale it, you have to sell it, and you have to industrialize it.  A single idea that starts with a team of 5 can potentially grow to a team of 100s if it picks up steam in the marketplace and is sold to multiple clients.  Some of those people are data scientists, developers, and other technical resources, but others are in sales & marketing, legal, commercial, and product management. 

A successful idea can grow very fast and create hundreds of jobs.  Of course some ideas will fail, but that is expected. The key is to fail fast and to build a portfolio of many products in varying stages of maturity. The premise of AI Jobs for Oregon is that we can potentially help support or initiate hundreds of successful companies – big and small – like this over the decade while training thousands of people that will go on to work at those (and other) companies.

Could this work in Oregon?

With a dedicated Commission and Agency focused on creating jobs in this space as their sole mission, there is a very good chance the structure proposed (or similar) could be successful in creating skilled job-ready people all across the state, assigning and managing work by people in different locations, and working with Oregon entrepreneurs to generate many new ideas for new products and businesses.  Yes, this could work.

Why $1B?  

My belief is that $1B is the right number.  That is a number that captures attention, not just locally, but nationally and globally.  It is a number that dwarfs most philanthropy gifts and therefore is beyond the scale of all but the richest individuals. It is an eye-catching number – intentionally. The idea is to attract more businesses to Oregon in this field and the awareness of a large investment in creating job ready, skilled people will help attract and crowd in additional funding from venture capital, corporate interests, and federal funding.   You can split up the $1B over 10 years or even 15.  But go with a big number to create buzz and interest and bring more business in AI to Oregon. 

Startup Explosion

If structured right, this initiative could help support and foster startups all over Oregon.  The initiative can help provide seed capital (in kind work as developer time) for interesting ideas that need a start (a way to train people on real projects), can help match up entrepreneurs with venture capital or angel funding, and even take an equity stake in lieu of repayment.   In the process of creating thousands of people with job ready skills, the Oregon AI initiative could also help accelerate the growth of startups all over the state.

AI Bias and Privacy

For some people AI is all bad.  They see only the bad side and listen only to the bad press.  Having worked in the field, I know mistakes can be made, bias created, errors propagated.  In fact, I helped create a bias training solution for executive education that showed how class imbalances in data processed by an algorithm to create a machine learning model can actually amplify the original imbalance and cause predictions that are materially biased and incorrect (e.g. worse than the actual original data).  I’m keenly aware of some of the challenges and issues with bias.  But I’m also aware that there are many techniques for mitigating these issues.  One of the advantages of creating a large enough initiative in a state like Oregon is then having enough scale to be able to develop standard processes and share out standard tools to minimize or eliminate bias in AI models.   These are solvable problems – if you are the ones making the products.  

AI and Job Loss

If we encourage AI jobs in Oregon, won’t we just be speeding up the process of destroying jobs using AI?   Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?  My answer is no.  From what I have seen, the hype of how fast things will change or the impact on jobs is usually just that – hype.  It is best to think of technology transformation as being a decade long process.   To me, the best insurance against job loss is to create as many of the jobs in a new field as you possibly can and then work to retrain and re-skill people for these new jobs as you go.   If you are just the customer at the end of the process, you don’t control your own destiny.  If you are the maker, you get to create the products, the jobs, and you get to capture the bulk of the benefits.   We should be the state that makes these solutions, not just the one that buys and consumes them.

Notes:

Some candidate notes on this idea. First, this taking what I used to do at smaller scale in the context of a large corporation and translating it into a state structure for creating new jobs, new products, and new startups in an industry that will change the future. This idea would be catnip for job creation and it would structure the solution to push a big share of this job creation out to our rural counties and towns where they need jobs and growth the most. Now, here is the thing no candidate should ever say: I like this idea and I’ll probably keep working on it whether I win or lose. You kind of get this one for free, but I would certainly appreciate your support. Even if I fall short as your candidate, this is something that could help all Oregonians thrive and prosper in the coming years.

Like this idea?  Show your support for an AI Jobs for Oregon initiative.