AI is the most significant and disruptive technology to surface in a long time. Anyone who has played with generative AI will acknowledge this is going to have a huge impact on the way we live, work and interact with technology. Despite that AI has (and will) make some occupations obsolete, the reality is AI has the potential to create more jobs than it destroys. This article delves into the imperative of preparing the workforce for the AI revolution and the essential role played by educators, equipping individuals & businesses with the necessary skills to thrive in an AI-driven world.
– Scott Galloway, Professor, NYU Stern School of Business
The poignant quote captures the essence of AI's influence on the workforce. AI's evolution is not just about automation, it's about upskilling the workforce to harness its potential. Early adopters of AI are already in an advantageous position with heightened productivity, efficiency gains, increased revenue and compensation. Basic comprehension for the types of AI applications (i.e. speech & text, robotics, vision, autonomous vehicles) is now critical amongst learners, recent grads and experienced professionals to remain competitive in a digital economy. Those optimists who understand AI and its advantages, who can understand its potential functions, can monitor & control its capabilities; now they have the competitive advantage. It’s easy to compare today’s AI enthusiasts with those early to the gate for the other most significant technological advancement in the modern era, the rise of the internet.
Socio-economic trends & technology are already shaping the workforce faster than human capital can keep up. Today’s learners (and businesses) need adequate & accessible training opportunities. There is an urgency for technical knowledge and skill development. The urgency is based on an observable need to match the competencies of both upcoming graduates and our existing workforce with in-demand jobs. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report underscores the pressing need for upskilling, revealing six of ten workers will require skill enhancement before 2027 to remain relevant & competitive. Furthermore, the WEF 2023 report concluded,
Educational institutions play a pivotal role in preparing the workforce for the AI era. Coursera CEO, Jeff Maggioncalda confirms the demand for courses and programs related to AI is surging. This signifies a growing need to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a career surrounded by AI. Meanwhile many educators still require the foundational and ethical knowledge to demonstrate and apply types of AI applications in their curriculum and assessments. Like every other industry, AI has already disrupted and transformed routine activities in the education sector (including administrative, teaching and research practices) faster than anyone can keep up. Two contrasting mindsets have emerged regarding AI's integration into the education sector:
Some educators view AI as a threat to traditional academic practices. Without AI plagiarism software, educators are already battling learner’s saavy (or lazy) use of ChatGPT in assignments and assessments. With generative AI tools, learners have the ability to state their problem and are instantly provided with all the relevant content, articulated in just the right way for a solid passing mark. This produces marginalized thinking. The richness in critical learning and formulating your own unique perspective, ideas and theories based on rigorous research – it’s gone. Many institutions around the world have already banned access and are investing into emerging technologies (like Turnitin) to monitor, detect and control use of AI tools in students’ work.
Avoiding AI in the classroom (and how to leverage AI responsibly) has greater consequences. Inevitably, there will be an increased dependency on (what learners may not know to be) an unreliable system. AI applications are not infallible; they can make mistakes and produce unexpected results. AI systems can inadvertently perpetuate existing biases present in their training data. Without proper education on how to recognize and address these biases, learners might unknowingly trust and propagate misinformation generated by AI. This can lead to skewed perceptions, reinforced stereotypes, and unjust decisions.
If access to AI education and skill building is limited, it could exacerbate existing social inequalities. Furthermore, learners (and workers) may inadvertently cross ethical boundaries or violate laws related to data privacy, intellectual property, and more. The list goes on. Incorporating education on AI and responsible AI usage into curricula and training programs would avoid serious ethical, social, and psychological implications.
Conversely, educators are choosing to recognize AI's potential to enhance the skills of students, early career talent and established professionals. To thrive in a career surrounded by AI, educators play a vital role to empower learners with practical experience using AI tools. The presence of AI has promoted educators to rethink teaching goals for students, the models in which they assess their learning and how we advance success. While anyone can easily access and use ChatGPT, educators and employers are key contributors in ensuring the necessary human-centric skills (such as creativity, critical thinking, design thinking, data fluency, and computational thinking) tare honed and used alongside AI applications.
Offering teaching, learning and research support, AI promises gains in efficiency across the board, both for overworked instructors and overscheduled students. It may even invite us to set a higher bar for student achievement. For now, inequity in education is real. Tools such as AI-powered tutoring, practice modules and coaching, enhances progress and substantively addresses barriers causing inequity in education and ultimately inequality in the workforce.
As AI reshapes industry and business standards, the education sector emerges as a linchpin in preparing the workforce for the AI revolution. Right now, there is an urgency amongst individuals and businesses to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a career surrounded by AI. Employers are looking to educational institutions to play a pivotal role in preparing the workforce for the AI era.
The integration of AI in education presents both challenges and opportunities. Educators are forging ahead with a balanced approach that safeguards intellectual rigor while leveraging AI's transformative potential. To best prepare our workforce for the changing digital economy, we must invest in accessible learning and foster a future where humans and machines collaborate. This means developing a workforce proficient at utilizing AI's transformative power in way that is ethically responsible, data-centric, and always allows room for human creativity and ingenuity!
Amy McLellan is a Sales and Operations Executive established in the education & workforce development sector. She leads B2B and public-private partnerships to bridge technology & innovation, build industry-backed learning products and drive revenue.
Writing this article has been a collaborative effort between Amy McLellan and ChatGPT. Amy provided the initial outline and content for the article and asked ChatGPT to serve as a guide for the overall structure. ChatGPT used its knowledge and expertise to organize and summarize points. First time writing in collaboration with Chat GPT, it took approximately 60 minutes.