27 SEPTEMBER 2023
The emergence of new generative AI technologies has us all worrying about our job security – but do we have anything to fear? FutureLearn believes that lifelong learning and upskilling provides the answer.
For as long as Artificial Intelligence has existed in popular media and cultural conversations, there has been a fear of robots replacing humans in the workplace.
While sentient AI is a long way off, the rapid advances in this space highlight how important it is for individuals to evolve and adapt their skill sets to keep up with future demands of work.
This increase in course demand further emphasises the need for business leaders, managers and teams to have flexible access to the latest high-quality short courses, so they can continuously upskill their knowledge.
Vitaly Klopot, FutureLearn’s Chief Operating Officer, highlights, “The user demand for AI upskilling has exploded since the rollout of ChatGPT. The rate at which universities are adding AI to their curriculum continues to accelerate. However, for those already in the workplace who need to upskill in real time, access to well-designed, flexible, modular courses on AI is absolutely critical.”
The UK government has also recognised the need to upskill people already in the workforce. Last year, it announced £23 million in funding to boost skills and diversity in AI jobs, whereby Science Minister, George Freeman, underscored how in the UK, AI was already playing a key role in everything from climate science and medical diagnostics to factory robotics and smart cities.
He explained, “It is therefore essential that we continue to equip our workforce with the skills they need in this important technology, while also making the industry accessible to talented people from all backgrounds.”
What’s more, research carried out by Goldman Sachs suggests that as many as 300 million jobs could be threatened by AI.
Some roles at risk include writers, paralegals, analysts, designers, accountants and customer service agents – all of these jobs involve tasks that AI may be able to do more quickly and efficiently.
However, many tasks are unlikely to be carried out by AI alone – human judgement will continue to be essential. It’s likely that the job market will simply evolve to make room for AI alongside human oversight. From prompt engineers and AI trainers to integration managers and AI ethics specialists, get ready for a new wave of tech employees.
AI ethics continues to be a hot topic and where education plays an important role. A popular course on FutureLearn’s platform by Coventry University and the Institute of Coding is Artificial Intelligence: Distinguishing Fact and Fiction. This course explores the potential risks of bias in AI algorithms and the importance of ensuring AI is relevant to different segments and populations.
In the course, the lecturer, Dr. Mark Elshaw at the School of Electronics, Computing and Maths, remarks, “If we have more people from developing countries in that process, if we have more women in that process, if we have more minorities in that process, we would create a better AI that is going to work better for the people that it’s designed for.”
Other hot topics around AI include the application of AI in healthcare, medicine and bioinformatics. These industries are advancing rapidly, applying AI to precision medicine, genomics, and patient care.
Yet, there are still some areas where AI can’t scratch the surface. Soft skills are a key example of this. Microsoft’s new Work Trend Index report, which surveyed 31,000 people across 31 markets earlier this year, found that the top three skills that leaders believe are essential for an AI-powered future are analytical judgement, flexibility and emotional intelligence.
In speaking with Vitaly Klopot, Chief Operating Officer at FutureLearn, he said, “Whether focusing on specific development goals, like learning soft skills and increasing digital literacy, or reskilling to meet the demands of an entirely new profession, lifelong learning can be the key to unlocking your potential.”
So, by learning and developing soft skills, prospective employees can anticipate and prepare themselves to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing job market, ensuring that skills gel with, and even go beyond, AI’s current capabilities.
It’s not always easy to know which skills to focus on, but FutureLearn’s new AI-powered chatbot launches soon, with the intention of helping learners find their own individualised learning pathways. FutureBot will offer personalised career, skills and online course recommendations to learners looking to propel their careers and stay on top of industry innovations.