Is your organisation AI ready? Are you investing in upskilling your staff?
According to 2020 research by Microsoft, the UK’s AI skills gap is more severe than the rest of the world. Fewer than 1 in 5 employees (17%) said that they had been part of a re-skilling programme while just under a third (32%) felt that their employer was doing enough to prepare them for an AI-enabled future.
Apart from a lack of budget, there is seemingly a reluctance on the part of organisations to invest in AI training, thereby creating an acute shortage in the expertise required to meet future workforce needs. Chris Withers, Head of AI & Advanced Analytics at EY referred to a need to create ‘advocates of AI and champions for driving change throughout the organisation’.
Requirements depend on the industry involved. An embedded learning culture is fundamental in creating the type of organisation where ideas and innovation are encouraged. Whether working in machine learning, robotics or applying predictive analytic models in data science to make better business decisions, there are certain technical skills that are common to all the key roles using AI. Often from a STEM background, these individuals will need to have a good grasp of computer science and programming languages such as Python and Scala.
As well as strong technical computing and programming background, those working in AI will also need to be inquisitive and inventive, always looking to push the boundaries, problem solve and come up with solutions. While jobs in AI suit people who like to experiment and test, constantly striving to make improvements to systems and processes, individuals also need excellent stakeholder skills, often having to explain technical subjects to non-technical experts.
There are a number of AI and digital programmes provided by organisations such as FutureLearn, the online digital education platform. All the big tech players have also got in on the act: Google AI offers exercises and tutorials to help people advance their skills. Microsoft has a number of practical sessions and tools from its AI Business School. Amazon Web Services (AWS) also provides machine learning tools to help organisations create new customer experiences.
Academic courses can’t keep up with the pace of change of technology while on the other AI professionals often don’t have the experience given that organisations at early stages of their AI journeys. It's a 'Catch 22 situation'. But the fact remains that AI skills are critical to future business success. As a 2018 survey by Microsoft in 2018 found, organisations embracing AI were outperforming the competition by 5%. That number had more than doubled to 11.5% by 2019.
And it's only likely to continue on an upward trajectory in 2020 and beyond – just like the demand for AI talent.