Since the launch of ChatGPT, there has been plenty of headlines recently about jobs being replaced by AI. This has understandably worried some businesses and employees. A Goldman Sachs report estimates that 300 million jobs could be lost across Europe and the USA. Some businesses, such as BT, have also announced that they will cut jobs over the coming years and replace them with new ones in AI.
While this may cause concern, it is important to remember that, first, this is going to be a drawn out process and we remain a long way from AI being capable of taking on lots of skilled jobs. Companies that do make use of it will also require comprehensive human oversight. Second, this expected technology driven revolution is by no means the first time we have seen such change – work roles have constantly evolved since the industrial revolution, with some becoming obsolete while entirely new careers take their place. According to economist David Autor, 60% of workers are in occupations that did not exist in 1940. Change in the workplace may be scary, but it is also inevitable, and it requires an ability to adapt.
Recognise the opportunities that AI offers
The key to thriving in this new era as a business and as an individual lies in the ability to recognise the opportunity that AI offers to increase productivity and remove a lot of the mundane workday tasks, and to grow with it. As an employee, you should be looking to take steps to future proof your career and ensure that as AI, or indeed any new major technology advancement, changes working practices you are in the best possible position to respond.
The same is true for businesses. Used correctly by businesses and it will manifestly improve working conditions while at the same time spurring innovation, efficiency and ultimately, profitability. But there is a well documented global skills gap in technology which is particularly acute in data-related fields. As AI advances this gap is only going to increase and push the cost of hiring data-skilled workers higher. Using AI effectively within a business requires widespread data skills which are best acquired by upskilling existing teams.
What skills should I be looking for?
Where should you start when looking to upskill or retrain to future proof your career, or to implement a program for your team? First off, it is important to understand that there is no one size fits all approach. Every person will have different career ambitions, potential exposure to AI and expertise required in their role. Reskilling is often a long term process, and for most people quitting their current job and dedicating time to retrain in a new field is impractical and undesirable. It is also highly likely to be completely unnecessary. The reality is that you do not need to become a data scientist, analyst or engineer to always be employable. Every new technology is divided between those who develop, implement and maintain a solution and those that know how to best use, manage and innovate with it. The vast majority of professionals will fall into the latter category with AI.
Therefore, for most people your starting point should be determining how you can best use data, and by extension, AI, in your existing role. This has the added advantage of being an attractive strategy to most employers – they want you to be more effective in your current position – and as a result, may lend a lot of support to your upskilling.
At QA Workforce Learning, we have found that the most popular skill to learn in the first instance in the past year is basic data knowledge. Understanding how AI works and the foundations of data analysis will help you to ascertain how you can better apply data today while also getting to grips with the potential long term impact of AI on your profession. From there you can begin to plot out how you can build on these skills and evolve your career.
There’s now a plethora of different ways in which we can learn new skills. Whether it’s online, in-person, professional development courses or ad-hoc skill acquisition, there is a format for every person, character and lifestyle. It’s usually recommended that employees involve their management on their training journey to take advantage of all opportunities available, but also to develop a timeline of implementing what you are learning into your workstream. This may be easier to do with businesses that already offer upskilling programmes, but even if they don’t, they should be willing to help with independent learning if a good business case is made. By taking advantage of relevant upskilling opportunities to support your professional growth, and not shying away from what is offered by the development of AI, you will feel better prepared for the age of data and AI.
Sarah Gilchriest is Chief People Officer at Workforce Learning, the group that encompasses QA, Circus Street and Cloud Academy. Sarah is passionate about creating a business that is thriving creatively, financially, and culturally. Sarah's priority is driving the businesses exponential growth and global expansion without sacrificing the people-focused, award-winning culture of which the business is exceptionally proud. Previously, Sarah was President of Circus Street, joining the company in 2016.