AIMS pilots remote work-integrated learning during COVID-19

8 June 2020 – Over the last few weeks, AIMS Industry Initiative has recently developed and piloted an online Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program as a response to COVID-19, ensuring that students continue to acquire employability skills and internships.

During COVID-19, AIMS like businesses across various sectors all over the world, has been disrupted by countrywide lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing measures including the suspension of in-person educational interactions. These regulations have far-reaching consequences on the AIMS WIL programs, particularly the Co-operative Education (Co-op) program, which has a mandatory work placement component.

“The multifaceted global crisis caused by COVID-19 continues to negatively impact economies worldwide. Many organizations are reducing the number of employees and others have frozen new employment processes. In addition to these immediate response actions, the need for data science capacity to better monitor, evaluate and understand the consequences of the pandemic on businesses and offer solutions is equally an important recovery plan that needs more attention. This remote work-integrated learning program is the AIMS response to these two simultaneous challenges and we are confident that our students will make important contributions,” said Dr. Charles Lebon Mberi Kimpolo, Director of the AIMS Industry Initiative.

Working with MANOBI Africa/ICRISAT, already existing AIMS- Industry partners, AIMS has developed a remote WIL placements strategy for its students. In this partnership, MANOBI-Africa/ICRISAT converted one of the AIMS WIL programs into a remote internship program for 16 AIMS students and alumni currently based in 13 countries and across 10 time zones (55% Women).

Some of the projects they are currently working on include finding ways to transform smallholder yield prediction, optimizing rural water distribution systems, aggregating user feedback on technologies, de-risking agricultural investments etc. The team is also building new algorithms and workflows to power inclusive business service platforms such as agCelerant and UtilitY85 of MANOBI Africa.

This engagement has not only increased the contribution of African mathematical scientists to finding solutions to climate change-related challenges in Africa but has also provided the students with an opportunity to use artificial intelligence and machine learning in the agricultural and water sectors.

“I have had the privilege to work as an MS4CR intern for the past one month and I love my experience working on assessing the development value of cheap, but dense IoT rain gauge networks. The MS4CR Internship Program has given me career direction towards the agriculture field, which is the brightest hope for Africa, that I had never considered being part of. I have always wanted to make tangible impact in the society and this internship program has made my dream a reality,” Rachael Katwa Kyalo, MS4CR Intern at Manobi Africa/ICRISAT.

“After my internship, I’d like to apply what I have learned to my community. I enjoyed the online internship program because it runs so smoothly and it’s a commendable program and it has been the most remarkable event in my life, so far,” she says.

The internships offer AIMS students and alumni high-quality work experience to solve practical societal challenges. Contributing their strong mathematical and computational skills to assigned projects, AIMS students and alumni also improve their knowledge in the fields of agriculture, water and food security.

“The AIMS-NEI Mathematical Sciences for Climate Resilience (MS4CR) program is an important instrument to build Africa’s capacity to quantify climate risk, understand its impacts on development and help transform entire economic sectors…We look forward to working with more AIMS students and alumni,” said Pierre C. Sibiry Traoré, Director R&D, Manobi Africa & Principal in Business Researcher, ICRISAT.

For more information about the remote work-integrated learning strategy and how we are implementing it with industry partners, contact us via aii@nexteinstein.org.