AI is creating ‘explosion’ in demand for tech skills, says report

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The rapid introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technology in business will “drastically change” the UK job market in the coming years – with millions of roles expected to be created, according to a new report.

Research by recruiter Robert Walters and analysts Vacancysoft found that up to a third of current jobs in the UK would be automated or were likely to change significantly as a result of the emergence of AI in the workplace.

But the report said the uptake of AI across multiple industries was creating a “next generation” of jobs defined by having data skillsets at their core.

Ollie Sexton, principal at Robert Walters, said there had been increasing pressure on businesses to capture and integrate data as they become more reliant on AI, resulting in an “unprecedented number” of positions being created.

“Our job force cannot afford not to get to grips with data and digitalisation,” Sexton said. “Now is the perfect time to start honing UK talent for the next generation of AI-influenced jobs.”

Sexton added that the “AI explosion” in business has led to the development of specialist roles and opportunities for professionals with experience of new technology.

The report highlighted that vacancies for general data professionals had increased by almost 80 per cent since 2015. Demand for data managers has grown 64 per cent year-on-year between 2018 and 2019.

According to the report, the main industries investing in AI and new technologies were agriculture, business support, customer experience, energy and healthcare.

The retail, professional services and technology sectors were also heavily implementing AI on behalf of customers – leading to greater demand for professionals with the relevant skills.

Jonny Gifford, senior adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, told People Management the integration of AI and automation in the workplace was “more nuanced” than was popularly understood. As some jobs were eliminated, Gifford said, others would be augmented or created by new technology.

He said employers needed to understand how their businesses would be changed by AI, and bring HR into the conversation around how effective people management strategies could align with their organisation’s technology strategy.

“You need the tech people to talk to HR, who can share how AI and automation will impact the workforce,” Gifford said. “From the outset, employers need to think about how to integrate AI with the organisation and how that will change jobs.”

Previous CIPD research found HR was involved in just half (55 per cent) of AI investment and implementation decisions within businesses, and 45 per cent of implementation processes, with functions including IT, production or operations all far more likely to be consulted.

Gifford said HR’s strategic business role in AI implementation planning was to ensure new technology was not rejected by the organisation and was properly integrated into operations.

“There is an interface between people’s work and automated processes – HR needs to be part of that conversation,” Gifford said. “It’s about including HR in taking a strategic role in planning and implementing AI in the workplace because they will think about how new technology will affect how employees work.”

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