The narrative around the impact of AI on the workplace typically revolves around the number of jobs that will be lost to AI technologies. A recent study from O’Reilly suggests that far from doing away with humans, AI needs more highly skilled humans to get the best out of the technology.
The study suggests that the adoption of artificial intelligence in the enterprise is being held back by a significant shortage of AI-trained engineers and developers. The majority of respondents thought that AI will play a major role in their future, but a shortage of skills was the number one bottleneck.
“Despite some claims that AI is over-hyped, these results show that we can expect more companies to use deep learning to improve their own products and services in the coming year,” O’Reilly say. “With that will come a tremendous emphasis on training at every level – from college degree programs to professional trainers – as businesses seek to develop the deep learning skills of their own staff.”
Crossing the skills gap
In response to this skills shortage, 75% of respondents reported that they were using an in-house or external AI training program. A couple of recent examples highlight the kind of projects being undertaken.
The first comes from Google, who have teamed up with MOOC pioneer Coursera to launch an online course for IT support professionals. It’s estimated that IT support roles will grow by 10% by 2026, and the course is designed to learn the kind of skills required to land such a role.
The hands-on labs are designed by IT experts at Google to offer an affordable way for people to gain the skills they need to get on in their career. Coursera believe that the courses can take someone from notice to the kind of standard required to become an IT Support Specialist in just 8-12 months.
Stepping onto the ladder
To help people make that first step, Google are set to offer financial assistance to 10,000 or so people in the U.S. this year as part of their Google.org initiative. This will consist both of scholarships and also support to a range of nonprofit groups who all aim to help underserved groups train and improve their career prospects.
In addition to taking the course, the program also aims to help learners get their first job at the end. Those who complete the six courses that make up the certificate will be able to share their qualification with a range of potential employers, including Walmart, Infosys and, of course, Google themselves.
Another program aiming to develop IT skills was recently launched by NVIDIA, Scan Computers and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The group have launched a deep learning teaching kit that they hope will help introduce Year 9 pupils to the world of AI.
They’ll pick up a range of AI concepts and terminologies, whilst also investigating the real world applications of the technology. This will involve the creation, testing and evaluation of their own AI system to recognize images. Each teacher will be granted free cloud-based GPU instances courtesy of AWS.
“AI is already part of our everyday lives, and by the time today’s 13-year-olds are entering the workforce, it will have a significant impact on the kinds of jobs available to them,” the project team say. “The World Economic Forum estimates that, by 2025, 90 percent of jobs will require digital skills, and that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will work in jobs that don’t currently exist. It’s critical that we introduce pupils to core AI concepts so they’re equipped to thrive in this environment.”
Hopefully more companies will follow in the footsteps of Google and NVIDIA, and invest heavily in the skills of their employees so that they can work effectively alongside AI in the future.