The entry-level job has largely disappeared : How workers can attain the AI skills of the future

How workers can attain the AI skills of the future
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Summary

According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum, employers anticipate that 23% of all job roles will undergo disruption in the next five years due to the rapid advancements in technology. As a result, companies are facing the challenge of designing and implementing efficient training programs to ensure their workforce can keep up with this evolving landscape.

WorkLife recently interviewed Dr. Mona Mourshed, the founder of Generation, a renowned nonprofit organization dedicated to training and empowering hundreds of thousands of individuals across 18 different countries. With their expertise, Generation has successfully assisted over 14,000 employers, including prominent organizations like Bl, in navigating the complex task of adapting to technological advancements and ensuring their workforce possesses the necessary skills.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to make waves in the labor market, bringing about profound shifts that will impact everyone. This technological disruption will have varied repercussions across different job levels. While automation of activities may diminish the demand for entry-level positions, there will be a burgeoning need for roles related to AI development and maintenance. This trend is already evident as some employers are increasingly hiring fewer candidates at the entry-level. Consequently, it is crucial to closely monitor this area and observe whether there will be a decline in the number of entry-level opportunities in light of AI advancements.

The impact of AI on the workplace is already making its presence felt across various roles today. According to the 2024 PWC/World Economic Forum CEO Survey, 61% of U.S. CEOs stated that generative AI will require their workforce to acquire new skills within the next three years. This indicates that the effects of AI are not limited to the distant future, but rather have immediate significance.

Employers are eagerly anticipating the potential productivity boost that integration of AI can bring to their operations. However, despite this enthusiasm, there has not yet been a significant increase in employer-provided training programs to prepare employees for this shift. As new AI tools continue to be introduced and implemented, it will become increasingly important for employers to prioritize training initiatives to ensure their workforce can effectively utilize these technologies.

The potential for AI to replace certain job roles and create new ones has led to widespread speculation. However, employees equipped with AI skills relevant to their respective roles will be highly sought after by employers.

How can workers ensure they have the skills for these jobs?

The evolving landscape underscores the importance of continuous learning. Tech proficiency is increasingly vital across various industries, prompting workers to acquire relevant skills proactively.

For those already employed, learning from peers, leveraging online resources, obtaining certifications, or engaging in employer-provided training programs serve as effective avenues for skill enhancement.

However, the challenge is distinct for newcomers to the workforce, including recent graduates, individuals with alternative certifications, or seasoned professionals transitioning careers. Traditional entry-level positions have largely evolved. Recent research by Generation reveals that 61% of employers have heightened educational or experiential prerequisites for entry-level tech roles over the past three years. Notably, 94% of these employers express a preference for candidates with some relevant work experience.

Contrary to popular belief, a computer science degree is not the sole pathway to technology-related roles. Our training initiatives, spanning four to 16 weeks, demonstrate that these skills are attainable for all with adequate support. Remarkably, within six months of completing our courses, three-quarters (75%) of our graduates secure employment opportunities.

How can workers ensure they have the skills for these jobs?

The rapid changes in the workplace, brought about by AI, underscore the necessity of continuous learning. Tech skills are increasingly essential across diverse industries, highlighting the urgency for workers to proactively acquire the necessary competencies.

For those currently employed, avenues such as learning from colleagues, utilizing online resources, obtaining certifications, or engaging in employer-provided training programs serve as effective means for continuous skill development.

However, the landscape poses unique challenges for newcomers entering the job market, whether they are recent university graduates, individuals with alternative certifications, or experienced professionals transitioning to new careers. The traditional notion of entry-level positions has significantly evolved. Our recent global research at Generation focused on entry-level tech roles and revealed that 61% of employers have raised their education or work experience requirements over the past three years. Remarkably, 94% of employers expressed a preference for entry-level hires with some relevant work experience.

There exists a widespread misconception that a computer science or related degree is a prerequisite for technology-related roles. However, our experience contradicts this notion. Our training programs, spanning four to 16 weeks, demonstrate that these skills can be acquired by anyone with the appropriate support. In fact, within just six months of completing our courses, three-quarters of our graduates have secured employment opportunities.

How can employers ensure they employ people equipped for these jobs?

One of the most significant challenges related to inclusivity and equity in the job market revolves around the hiring process, especially for entry-level and intermediate positions. Traditionally, hiring managers have heavily relied on CVs, emphasizing education and work experience, and sometimes turning to AI algorithms to identify the “perfect” candidates. Unfortunately, this approach often disadvantages jobseekers who encounter systemic barriers, while also leaving employers struggling to fill crucial positions and uncertain about hiring individuals with the necessary skills.

The key lies in transforming hiring practices to prioritize skills over CVs. Given the rapid pace of technological advancements, cognitive flexibility stands out as one of the vital skills that employers should seek in their hires. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, the tool in use today may not remain relevant in six months, necessitating workers who can swiftly and adeptly adapt to such shifts.

Similar to any other skill, cognitive flexibility can be assessed. Skills-based hiring can encompass standardized evaluations, performance-based interviews, portfolio assessments, and other methods tailored to the specific requirements of each role. It is only by observing how job candidates demonstrate the necessary skills for the position at hand, including the critical skill of cognitive flexibility, that employers can surmount the prevalent biases in current hiring practices and secure candidates who can excel from day one in their new roles.

Upskilling, Not Starting Over: Why Hire Older Workers for AI-Driven Jobs?

Discussing the advantages of hiring individuals aged 45 and above for entry-level positions created by the rise of AI is crucial, given the persistent employment challenges faced by midcareer and older workers even before the full integration of AI.

This age group encounters unwarranted ageism from employers who doubt their skills and capacity to learn. Our recent collaborative report with the OECD, titled “The Midcareer Opportunity,” delved into these issues and revealed that only 13% of employers would unequivocally consider hiring individuals over the age of 55, in contrast to 47% for those aged 30 to 44.

One of the most notable misconceptions is the unfounded belief that older workers are less adept at adapting to technological advancements in the workplace. According to our survey, 52% of employers believed that individuals aged 30 to 44 would possess strong tech skills, whereas this figure dropped to 30% for workers over the age of 45.

However, workers aged 45 and above debunk this myth through their on-the-job performance: 83% of employers observed that midcareer and older workers they had recruited adapted to new tasks as swiftly as their younger counterparts, and 89% stated that they performed equally well or even better than the younger cohort.

Midcareer and older workers constitute a growing segment of the workforce, and companies that tap into this pool of talent will be well-positioned to fill essential roles and drive enhanced company performance.

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