The skills workers will need in the age of AI

Written by Nikolas Kairinos on 11 February 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

Which key skills will be vital in the job market in the coming years? Nikolas Kairinos has the answer.

Reading time: 4 minutes

The world of work is in a constant state of change. From cloud-based software solutions through to online communication platforms, new technologies have helped businesses and professionals find effective solutions to everyday problems.

Arguably, no technology has been as disruptive as artificial intelligence (AI). We must only look to recent headlines to understand the huge impact that AI has had on the workforce.

Granted, not all of these are positive, with many instilling a fear that AI and automation will soon outpace human intelligence; ultimately resulting in robots replacing the human workforce.

Although there is some truth to this – many jobs will naturally change as a direct result of the fourth industrial revolution – such sentiments are largely blown out of proportion.

If we are to consider some recent figures, the outlook, in fact, remains quite promising. AI will create new jobs, opening up fresh opportunities for professionals to explore.

According to a 2018 report from the World Economic Forum, 75 million jobs may be displaced globally by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines in the next five years.

STEM skills will be vital for people looking to take on the jobs that will arise out of AI and automation

However, 133 million new roles, which are better suited to this new world of work, are expected to emerge. So, we could actually see the shift create 58 million new jobs in just half a decade.

In light of this, perhaps we should rephrase the question of whether AI will steal our jobs, to focus more on how we can adapt to take advantage of its potential.

Will AI disrupt the job market?

The simple answer to this is, yes. However, there’s a massive caveat: this is likely to be a positive outcome, rather than a prospect to be feared.

Indeed, by lifting the burden of administrative responsibilities and mundane tasks off the shoulders of professionals, this will leave them with time to dedicate to more fulfilling pursuits.

Let’s start with the basics. The power of AI lies in its unparalleled ability to automate routine, labour-intensive and complicated tasks: characteristics of many office jobs, which require people to spend countless hours trawling through data.

What if we could leave this to machines? AI can find and analyse relevant information at lightning speeds to extract important insights. And indeed, many businesses are already reaping the rewards.

Take digital assistants, for instance. AI-fuelled chatbots are regularly employed by companies to manage initial or routine interactions with clients and consumers.

Rather than seeking the advice of a professional, people can now revert to a company’s website, where they are able to pose their question to the AI.

Using the stores of data that it has access to, the chatbots can revert the most relevant answers, introducing huge time and cost savings in the process. Should it be unable to effectively answer a query, this can then be diverted to an employee.

Human workers will remain central to the job market in the years to come, regardless of how far AI advances

This demonstrates the value to be found in a symbiotic partnership between humans and machines. The key lies in making the most of the best attributes of both.

So now that we’ve explored how AI can offer value, what are the key human skills that will be vital in the job market in the coming years?

What skills will workers need in the age of AI?

To answer this question, we must first consider the new avenues that AI will open up for professionals.

First, we must consider the human element involved in building and maintaining intelligent AI systems.

Indeed, we must ensure that, not only do they generate real value, but that they are developed responsibly. In order to do so, we need people with advanced data literacy and digital skills.

AI cannot operate without human oversight, which means that we will need experts who can interpret insights, ensure the AI works efficiently, and step in to make judgment calls based on the insights delivered.

STEM skills will be vital for people looking to take on the jobs that will arise out of AI and automation.

After all, there is no such thing as good AI without good data, so those working with this technology must be adept at interpreting data, finding patterns within it, and identifying which data sets would be useful for AI training.

Data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers, and e-commerce and social media specialists are just some of the many roles that will rise to prominence in coming months according to the aforementioned World Economic Forum report.

If we expect humans and machines to work in tandem, however, we must also realise the need for human ‘soft’ skills; skills which AI currently does not possess.

 



 

With automation increasingly taking over data processing and administrative tasks, humans will be left with responsibilities that require problem-solving, social and emotional response, and creative thinking.

Indeed, the same report suggests that we will begin to see the doors opening for roles such as customer service workers, Human Resource specialists and innovation managers – positions that are heavily reliant on these ‘human’ skills.

Qualities like empathy, adaptability and leadership will be equally important, and represent assets that people bring to the table in business.

We are likely to see more emphasis being placed on developing these attributes within the workforce. After all, these qualities are pivotal to helping teams thrive.

Human workers will remain central to the job market in the years to come, regardless of how far AI advances. I look forward to seeing how teams utilise the technology to help them reach new horizons.

 

About the author

Nikolas Kairinos is CEO and founder of Fountech

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