Tools & methods

Lack of workplace training puts AI revolution at risk

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

I’ve written a number of times about the need to significantly expand our efforts to educate the workforce if we’re to take advantage of the latest technologies entering the market. Consulting firm Accenture have been fervent cheerleaders of this, and have banged the drum again in a recently published paper.

They argue that unless we take a radically new approach to learning, the skills gap will result in as much as $11.5 trillion in GDP growth being lost over the next ten years.

The report, which was published in partnership with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA), underlines the changes that are likely to unfold as new technologies enter the workplace. These new technologies will require new skills in order for employees to get the best out of both themselves and the technology. The authors argue that training needs to focus on three core areas.

3 steps to bridge the skills gap

  1. Ramp up experiential learning – The business world is nothing if not quick, so affording large chunks of time out to learn is unlikely to work. Experiential learning helps to merge learning with working, so is more likely to support the kind of lifelong learning required.
  1. Focus on individuals rather than institutions – It’s likely that each of us will have very specific requirements as well as learning styles, so it’s important that any training initiatives should focus on incentivizing us as individuals rather than aiming for broader targets.
  1. Reach out to the less advantaged – A topic I’ve touched upon a number of times is how those at most risk from automation are those least likely to engage in education. These include older people, less educated and those in physical roles. They require more targeted and specific interventions than is the case today to fit in with their unique life circumstances.

“Whether new technologies augment or automate work, upskilling is an urgent priority,” Accenture say. “But before business leaders commit to improved workplace training, they must assess how technology will reconfigure work in their sector and the new range of skills it will demand of their people.”

Failure to do this could have a profound impact, with the report suggesting that as much as 51% of the average worker’s time could be affected in some way by potential augmentation.

Reaching the hard to reach

Perhaps the most important aspect is the third of the three steps outlined above. It’s well known that poorer and less educated people are both at greater risk of their work being automated, and less likely to engage in the kind of lifelong learning required to either adapt or update their skills.

Accenture reference work being done by MOOC network Udacity to provide more guidance to learners, but previous work on this issue suggests a bigger barrier is one of time and confidence. Whilst the bite sized learning offered by MOOCs does provide the flexibility that is so valuable, overcoming the mental barrier of not feeling competent or welcome enough in such environments will be harder to overcome.

It’s a challenge that has not really been answered yet, for whilst MOOCs and similar approaches offer much, they have not crossed the chasm in reaching the disadvantaged. Likewise, initiatives such as The Dots, which aims to provide mentoring support for disadvantaged children, focuses all of its work on major cities, seldom branching out into smaller towns and rural communities that are often a desert of opportunity.

I suppose it is at least positive that Accenture are aware of the challenges, and have produced a Digital Skills agenda to try and do something about it.

“Current learning approaches aren’t fit for today, let alone tomorrow. Evidence from neuroscience and behavioral sciences show us there are better ways to learn,” they explain. “Many of the most important skills for the future workplace are best acquired through practice and hands-on experience. We need an overhaul of skilling approaches that puts experiential learning techniques front and center.”

Time will tell how effective society is at bridging this gap, but the report is certainly right in terms of the huge importance of doing so.

Article source: Lack Of Workplace Training Puts AI Revolution At Risk.

Header image source: Skitterphoto on Pixabay, Public Domain.

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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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