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How to future proof your employees’ career

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

‘Robots and AI need human intervention in order to work effectively and will continue to do so in the future. This is why having industry-led courses can help teach the necessary skills that can be applied to the workplace, even as these robots become more and more advanced. Instead of seeing AI as a threat, it is now more important than ever to be accepting of change. Over the next few years, AI could result in better integration and help us to live in a more connected and unified world.

It is predicted that 30 per cent of existing jobs in the UK may be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the next 20 years (opens in new tab). How can we prepare for this change? Is there a way we can provide employees with the necessary skills to creatively problem solve, absorb the latest technology and discover how behavioural changes can be woven into the workplace.

Iain Rice, Head of School Computing and IT at Arden University explores the possibility of putting learning and development practises in place to ensure future generations are equipped with the right skills that can complement the advances of AI.

‘We should never underestimate the influence that technology can have on our jobs. In light of ongoing AI developments, it is now more important than ever to ensure we are upskilling where necessary to meet technological advances.

‘Learning is the best way to stay relevant within the workplace. Nowadays, knowledge can become outdated and redundant very quickly, and it is essential that we all have transferrable skills and attributes that can be applied to different scenarios. The human brain has an advantage over AI which allows us to use our cognitive skills to problem solve efficiently and think critically. For this reason, perhaps our approach to learning needs to be turned on its head in order to integrate task-based scenarios into everyday life and the workplace, ensuring we can maintain that advantage as technology continues to develop.

Misunderstanding and mistrust

Without realising, it already plays a significant part in our day to day lives. Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant are all forms of AI. Even insurance firms use algorithms to determine a driver’s risk factor. Again, these have all been designed by a human and require instruction from a human to function. According to the UK government, the market value of AI technologies in Britain is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of over 60 per cent by 2022 and add an additional £650 billion to the UK economy by 2035 (opens in new tab). This would suggest that, although these devices are already active in many UK households, we are only at the very beginning of realising the potential of AI and the positive impact it could have on our economy. It is clear that AI could provide phenomenal economic growth with the potential to increase productivity outside of the home and eventually become an extension of the existing workforce in many industries.

‘Whilst there is concern that jobs will be lost to robots and ever evolving technology, there are other issues surrounding AI that involve misunderstanding and distrust. If we want a world where AI and human interaction can work together harmoniously, we need to restore confidence and remove the digital scepticism. We need to equip students with the knowledge to understand the changes that are currently taking place in industries and learn how these could impact their careers. If we have a better understanding of the potential changes, we can adapt accordingly.

‘So, what can we do? Any results from autonomous systems, algorithms or software should be questioned, interrogated even, with confidence levels attributed and all constraints and sources of bias identified. If these are all reported along with a result, e.g. the driver’s risk for insurance, then humans can modify the decision-making process accordingly rather than blindly following results and not trusting systems when they are seen to fail.

We can't ignore AI

‘Universities are continually looking to develop online capabilities that provide students with the right information outside of a classroom environment. That said, juggling study time around family commitments and a full-time job can be very difficult and seem impossible to some.

‘Courses are structured to help educate students with the skills needed to work alongside AI. More specifically, data courses are split into two parts: software and physical engineering. Students are taught industry relevant data analytics to ensure they can read, interpret and present data in a way that can be understood across all functions and help inform decision making. It doesn’t stop there, this approach is applied across all data analytics courses including finance, marketing, human resources, project management and systems management.

‘Academic teams should be synthesised with the most up to date and robust research on what helps people learn well, progress well and succeed. This can underpin a universities entire approach to designing curricula and course content. Alongside traditional texts, using podcasts, webinars (online seminars) and interactive knowledge-checks helps to keep students engaged, focused and motivated. Having the option of distance and blended learning, means that wherever you are, you can access regular support from expert tutors by email, phone or skype.

‘This leads us onto the question of ethics. This year we have seen the launch of The Institute of Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education (IEAIE). AI represents a whole new age of learning and we must ensure that all teachings abide by and are aligned with a moral code of conduct and principles. With a vision to make the UK become a world leader in AI teachings, we must lead by example and utilise this advanced technology in the correct way. Universities need to join forces and demonstrate good practise to ensure future generations continue to prosper in this field.

‘With additional plans to invest £17 million in development of AI across universities in the UK (opens in new tab), we cannot ignore the prospect of it becoming a big part of our lives. If used properly and taught effectively through incremented steps, we can use AI to achieve better integration which will allow us to operate more seamlessly in this digital age.’

Iain Rice, Head of School Computing and IT, Arden University (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio

Iain Rice is Head of School Computing and IT at Arden University. Iain develops Data Analytics, Data Science and other related AI programmes to prepare students for AI in the workplace.