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Empowering Tomorrow’s Workforce: Need for Upskilling in the Era of AI

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By Pradeep Narayanan, President, NIIT Digital and Growth Initiatives, NIIT Limited

The world of work is being disrupted by change like never before. As job definitions and requirements change, skills that were once considered sufficient are now in need of a refresh. Amongst many factors, one that adds a significant tailwind to the ongoing change is Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI). AI has already begun to have a transformative impact on the work environment; this will only magnify as AI’s impact accelerates in the years and decades ahead.

Much of the discourse till now has been around AI and how it can kill jobs. The coming of generative AI has only fuelled those fears. However, before one gets concerned about the potential negative effects of AI, let’s also pay some heed to the positive aspects of it.
AI has the potential to improve productivity and with more and more sectors embracing it, the opening up of new job profiles and avenues are expected.

A Silver Lining
As noted by the World Economic Forum, employers expect to create 69 million new jobs and eliminate 83 million older positions by 2027. This will lead to a loss of 14 million jobs, which is equivalent to 2% of current employment. These projections, though severe, are not without silver linings. The Future of Jobs Report also found that 97 million new jobs will be created as an effect of AI by 2025.

This leads to two conclusions. One, AI in the coming days will be pervasive across sectors. Two, as AI impacts new sectors, there will be a great demand for workers who can work with AI and can make the most of this revolutionary technology.

Again, the jobs of tomorrow will be of high quality this calls for massive skilling, reskilling, and upskilling of workers. Not surprisingly, as per a recent study by a staffing firm, over 75 percent of companies are struggling to find professionals equipped with the required skills. Employers are increasingly looking for, and are also ready to pay for, candidates with the right skill set and who are job-ready from Day One!

The concern is that the disparity between what the industry needs and what candidates offer in terms of skills is wide. This gap is only expected to increase in the coming years as more and more sectors embrace automation thereby creating high-quality jobs needing high levels of skills in those sectors.

A Bridge (not) Too Far
To bridge this gap effectively, it is important to align the curriculum with industry needs. Innovative approaches are needed. The benefits of skilling are multi-faceted. For individuals, it means greater employability and better career prospects. For industries, it means access to a pool of talent that can drive innovation and competitiveness. Failure to match our training approach as per the industry requirements could lead to a growing divide between job seekers and job opportunities, which ultimately hinders economic growth.

Future curricula should be designed in a way that it allows easy updates and adjustments to align with the evolving needs of industries. This means breaking away from a rigid, static syllabus and embracing a more dynamic approach. A great example is generative AI. While people have been fearful about this version of AI, few have equipped themselves to make the most of ChatGPT or other generative AI tools like it. When harnessed properly through effective skilling, the benefits of generative AI can be manifold for workers in the knowledge industry.

AI itself can be a solution to the very problem it created. Using AI, personalised training approaches can be developed. Today, there are AI-driven technologies that assess workers’ skills and future labor market trends to allow workers to identify and gain skills to secure future jobs. AI-driven algorithms can identify learning modules and match them to the needs of individual workers.

Educational approaches can also be made interactive and thereby more effective, leading to better learning outcomes. AI-powered virtual tutors can be available round the clock to address queries of learners. Both students and teachers can use AI to create smart content that improves learning outcomes. AI and data analytics together can help educators track students’ progress, identify areas of improvement, and tailor learning pathways accordingly. This forms the bedrock for creating tomorrow’s workers.

The use of AI to prepare workers and learners for tomorrow’s jobs is not only restricted to the technology sectors. Medicine, biology, social sciences, and even languages can use AI to help learners and workers better grasp the nuances of these disciplines. A great example is the Duolingo AI app which has made learning foreign languages that much easier!

The onward march of technology will continue. We must spark interest in our educators, trainers, and innovators to empower the workers of today while suitably and effectively skilling the workers of tomorrow for the exciting jobs of the future.

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