With artificial intelligence poised to change how work gets done across industries and career roles, employers are beginning to stress the need for employees to know how to use AI tools even if they don’t work in IT.
According to an Amazon study released in December, recent advances in machine learning and the development of generative AI tools like ChatGPT will streamline daily operations across industries and workplaces by the turn of the decade. The study, which surveyed nearly 3,300 employees and 1,340 employer organizations spanning several industries, said more than 90 percent of polled employers predicted they would adopt AI technology in the workplace to some degree by 2028, expecting benefits such as the ability to automate tasks and improve communications. In addition to AI’s impact on IT-specific jobs, the report also predicted AI tools will soon be widely adopted by professionals in roles such as marketing and human resources for uses like content generation. The study added that 80 percent of polled workers were interested in learning more about AI, and employers were willing to pay nearly 50 percent more for IT professionals with AI skills.
Despite such trends, another recent study from Washington State University that surveyed over 1,200 full-time working adults in the U.S. said that nearly half of them had not received any professional development on how to use AI in their workplace, while 39 percent had not taken advantage of available resources to learn about AI.
“Our report reveals AI is already a reality in many industries and sectors but there are also significant gaps and challenges in its adoption and use, especially for women,” Julie Nelsen, assistant professor and director of WSU’s Carson College of Business Center for Professional Sales, said in a public statement.
Victor Reinoso, global director of education philanthropy at Amazon, told Government Technology that one of the challenges of preparing for AI-integrated workplaces is that many of them will soon require some familiarity with AI even for roles outside of IT. He said the need remains for more K-12 and postsecondary programming that teaches students and non-IT professionals about AI and how to use it to do their jobs more effectively. Whether those job roles are at companies like Amazon heavily involved in tech or other non-tech jobs, he said, AI skills will soon be a must across job types. In general, he said, “computer science is being integrated into more careers.”
“Sure, there’s a need and an opportunity to specialize in computer science, but we also need to create opportunities to integrate computer science and AI into other aspects of education,” he said. “Whatever career you can imagine doing, your trajectory is going to be positively impacted by computer science literacy. … Now is the time really for everybody to be thinking about this.”
Reinoso said K-12 schools across the country should continue trying to expose more students to career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while also exposing others interested in non-STEM career paths to how AI could impact their work in the years ahead. To that end, he said Amazon Web Services has supported and funded efforts to expand programming and teacher training in K-12 for subjects like computer science. He said the company also recently awarded scholarships to more than 50,000 high school and university students globally, allowing them free access to a course called “Introducing Generative AI with AWS,” among other efforts geared toward early AI-related skill building.
“We’ve got to first expose people to the concepts of these new work environments and these new careers and types of jobs. Then we’ve got to provide them with opportunities to develop the skills,” he said. “It’s much easier to see yourself in a role if you’ve seen the role. That’s one of the reasons we’ve invested in these programs.”
Lydia Logan, vice president of global education and workforce development at the tech company IBM, said it’s difficult to imagine a career field that won’t be using AI tools to some degree to increase efficiency in the years ahead.
“It’s [touching] everything from communications to all the administrative roles and all of the project management roles,” she said. “It’s hard to think of a role that isn’t touched, because we can all be more efficient. We all have things that can be automated.”
Hannah Johnson, a former human resources professional and senior vice president of tech talent programs at the computer science education and training nonprofit CompTIA, said one simple way to help prepare tomorrow’s professionals for AI-integrated jobs is to teach K-12 and higher-ed students about practical AI applications. She said instructors should integrate AI knowledge into their lesson planning as much as possible to meet growing employer demand for applicants well-versed in AI.
“I think where the focus needs to start is in very practical examples that they can use in the classroom,” she said. “They can be ‘micro learnings,’ but certainly [anything] teaching students how to potentially solve everyday problems or challenges with task management, or whatever it might be that they’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”