AI will have wide-reaching implications for the future of the workforce--and this means higher ed must educate students accordingly.

5 ways AI will impact the workforce–and how higher ed can respond

AI will have wide-reaching implications for the future of the workforce--and this means higher ed must educate students to keep pace

Key points:

Generative AI is changing the world, and the impacts it will have on the workforce mean higher education must evolve and adjust how it prepares students for professional success.

To gain a better understanding of where workplaces might be headed, in late 2023, Access Partnership and Amazon Web Services (AWS) collaborated on a survey of 3,297 employees and 1,340 organizations in the U.S., across industries.

The survey revealed five key takeaways as we examine how AI will impact the workforce–and the implications are clear for higher education.

1. Most organizations will use AI by 2028. AI is expected to significantly alter how
business is done in the foreseeable future. More than 90 percent of surveyed employers expect to use AI-related solutions in their organizations by 2028. In fact, almost all believe AI will positively impact their organization to some degree. In addition, the benefits of AI will be spread across the organization. While most employers (92 percent) believe their IT departments will be the biggest beneficiary of AI, they also believe most other departments, from sales and marketing (85 percent) to human resources (78 percent), will derive significant value from it as well.

2. Generative AI will transform how we work. Over 90 percent of both employers and employees expect to benefit from generative AI, which refers to an advanced form of AI that can create new content and ideas. Unlike traditional AI systems that are designed to recognize patterns and make predictions, generative AI creates new content in the form of conversations, stories, images, videos, music, and more. Recent breakthroughs in generative AI technology already promise to drastically change how workers, creators, and students approach content development. AI will be used across levels of technical knowledge, with 61 percent of ‘tech-specialists’ expecting to use it significantly, followed by 40 percent of ‘tech adjacent’ workers, and 23 percent of ‘non-tech’ workers.

3. Acquiring AI skills will boost pay and create other career benefits for employees. Eighty-four percent of employees indicate that AI could have some positive impact on their careers, mirroring the views of employers. The benefits of acquiring AI skills could be substantial for workers. Employers estimate that workers who acquire AI expertise could see their paychecks jump by 35 percent or more, depending on their departments with IT (47 percent) and sales and marketing (48 percent) seeing the highest bumps. Survey data also indicates that interest in acquiring AI skills transcends generations to advance their careers. Roughly two-thirds of workers over the age of 55 express an interest in doing so.

4. The productivity payoff from an AI-skilled workforce could be immense. Surveyed employers believe that AI could boost productivity by 47 percent, with large-sized organizations expecting the highest boost (49 percent). Employees, too, expect AI to boost their productivity, indicating that it will help them complete tasks 41 percent more efficiently. Interestingly, 88 percent of workers expect to use AI in their daily work
by 2028, and of those, one in four (25 percent) expect to be using it “extensively” or in
over 60 percent of their job tasks.

5. The AI skills gap can be reduced through more awareness of training programs. Employers rank AI as the most important technology skillset a job candidate can possess, outranking others such as digital marketing, application development, and use of cloud-based tools. Forty-two percent of surveyed employers are actively looking for people with AI development qualifications today, and this will rise to 51 percent in the next five years. However, the rapid transition to an AI-enabled workforce has created a labor market shortage for AI talent. Nearly three out of four (75 percent) of employers who consider hiring talent with AI skills as a priority for them today report having difficulty finding qualified candidates. The study also found a training awareness gap. Close to 82 percent of employers said that they don’t know how to implement an AI training program. Similarly, nearly 80 percent of employees say that they aren’t sure what AI training programs are available to them.

In a related move, Amazon announced “AI Ready,” a commitment designed to provide free AI skills training to 2 million people globally by 2025. To achieve this goal, Amazon is launching new initiatives for adults and young learners, and scaling its existing free AI training programs—removing cost as a barrier to accessing these critical skills.

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Laura Ascione

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