Education in The Era of Artificial Intelligence: The Making of The Future Workforce
Many higher education institutions pride themselves in the traditions they have been passing from one generation to another. For years, professors have developed methods they believed are optimal for knowledge transfer, and although they might welcome minor technological advances, they remain very reluctant to the major ones, “For decades, technologies like artificial intelligence have been disrupting and improving sectors across the world, while education, the second-biggest sector globally, has remained largely untouched,” says Priya Lakhani, founder and CEO of Century Tech, an AI teaching and learning platform. However, AI is not just any new technology, it is a whole digital ecosystem that unfolds an inexhaustible list of opportunities, using algorithms to help both students and professors navigate through different educational paths. The wind of change is blowing faster than ever, staying still is not an option anymore.
AI technology has progressed so fast, we barely had time to catch a breath. The transformation is moving quicker than governments, businesses and educational institutions can react and adapt. Coupled with machines, AI takes a whole different dimension. Every time we believe that we caught up with AI, new data comes in to make all our findings outdated and irrelevant. In education, the need to develop new mechanisms to anticipate future job-market trends in relation to AI has never been more pressing.
In order to ensure the relevance of education to changing economies, and labor markets, sliding AI-related skills to the top of the list of priorities for technical and vocational education has become a do or die to all institutions across the globe.
Have you ever heard of a Senior Cognitive Copywriter?
In its report “The Future of Jobs 2018”, The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that AI will create 133 million new roles by 2022, while 75 million jobs will be relocated. Businesses that have been quick to adopt AI-based solutions have harnessed tremendous growth opportunities, by foreseeing emerging roles, and upskilling their workforce.
We have seen generic jobs lose more and more ground to automated technology in the past decade, and it is not about to stop! And whilst this may seem frightening to most of us, but automation will also create new roles, transitioning into a more intelligent form of execution. The WEF report also predicts that jobs in sales, marketing, innovation and customer service are expected to increase in demand; on the other hand, some admin jobs such as data entry, payroll and accounting will disappear. The report also points out that skills’ requirements will vary across regions. A growing demand of financial and investment consultants is expected in East Asia, the Pacific and Western Europe. Latin America, and the MENA region will require more assembly and factory workers, while North America will have a higher demand for electrical engineers.
The job market has become more volatile than Wallstreet; new job descriptions are added every day, and as many are being suppressed. Two years ago, nobody has heard of a cognitive copywriter, today it has become one of the highest paid jobs in the market, and yet the qualified workforce for such a role is a scarce resource.
Beyond the tremendous shortage of skilled people, there is a general problem of underrepresentation of talent. Most AI-skilled people are concentrated in the same geographical areas, in countries that have invested most in AI, The US and China being the titans of emerging technologies. That excludes a significant number of aptitudes just because they live in countries where the government is resistant to AI, or simply for a lack of financing.
The education sector will not only have to take the lead in promoting the acquisition of competencies required by an AI-powered society, but it will also have to become a productive synergy between institutions beyond geographical borders.
AI still has its shortcomings
There is tremendous anxiety about how much human beings will still be needed in the future. If AI can drive a car, perform surgeries with minimum human supervision, and even produce art, and all of this at minimum cost, what are we good for then?
If we look at it the other way around and ask, “what can AI not do?”. Or, in other words, what jobs are left out there for us? What jobs will survive AI?
There are three things that AI is unable to do: creativity, social skills, and perceptiveness. Nowadays, we can almost automate all aspects of our lives, and although it might seem creative, it is no more than old data being recycled and reformulated in a smart way. Your AI-powered watch might inform you that your body temperature is slightly high, and might even call your doctor on your behalf, but it does not have the social skills to nurse you back to health.
One of the challenges that Education has to overcome is to shift from a purely technical dogma to an emphasis on creativity, social perceptiveness and design. Those three elements paired with technical sets of skills are going to matter very much in the future, much more than we can imagine.
This reality means the future workforce will need to combine specialization, strong technical skills, and creative thinking, because believe it or not, very soon, AI technology will be able to crush even the most talented individuals.
Incredible possibilities…Major Challenges
Automation and AI will spur productivity and economic growth, with the promise of improved life conditions and worldwide welfare. The shifts in skill requirements in the years ahead, will drastically change the job market. Mckinsey Global Institute predicts that between 400 to 800 million jobs will be displaced by 2030, and up to half these people will need to completely change occupations or upgrade their skills to remain employed. The jobs that will survive the AI revolution are those where machines are unable to match human performance, and here is where the future of education lies.
The good news is that AI and Education are interdependent, Education will be creating the future talents to take AI to the next level, and in the step-up scenario, AI will come up with innovations to scale up education.
However, not all countries will surf on the wave of AI, advanced economies who have been quick to reevaluate their workforce needs, carefully considering which individuals are needed, which can be redeployed to other jobs, and where new talent may be required, will thrive. Unprepared countries will find it difficult to make the transition, and will see their unemployment rates skyrocket. Some educational institutions are way ahead, others are still slacking behind, what is certain is that it is in their self-interest—as well as part of their societal responsibility—to teach and prepare students for a new world of work.