Firms urged to address the skills challenge for an AI-enabled workforce

Business leaders must have the urgency to support the fundamental shift in training workers for the future Russell Craig, Microsoft NZ

New IDC research finds New Zealand business leaders and workers hold positive viewpoints about AI’s impact on the future of jobs.

More than half (67 per cent of business leaders and 55 per cent of workers) surveyed by IDC believe that AI will either help to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.

“When it comes to creating, replacing or eliminating jobs, 16 per cent of business leaders believe that AI will create new jobs, while 12 per cent felt that the technology will replace workers,” says Louise Francis, IDC research director for Australia and New Zealand.

“However, workers are overall slightly less convinced about the impact of AI on job creation or replacement, with 8 per cent expecting AI to replace jobs, and only 7 per cent expect AI to create new ones.

“At the same time, 30 per cent of workers expect no impact to their jobs within the next three years,” says Francis, one of the authors of the study Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI.

Louise Francis

The study, commissioned by Microsoft, also found workers are more willing to reskill than business leaders believe they are.

Twenty per cent of business leaders say it may be too difficult for workers to develop new skills, while only 4 per cent of workers felt that it was a challenge.

The study notes business leaders who are adopting AI face three top challenges: a lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI; lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programs, and lack of knowledge on how to deploy and monitor AI solutions.

It also points out that to move ahead on their AI programmes, businesses must create the right organisational culture.

Russell Craig – National Technology Officer, Microsoft New Zealand

A significant majority of the business leaders and workers surveyed believe cultural traits that support AI initiatives, such as risk-taking, proactive innovation, as well as cross-function partnerships among teams, are not pervasive today.

“Overall, workers in New Zealand are more sceptical than business leaders about the cultural readiness of their organisations,” says Francis.

Commenting on the survey results, Russell Craig, national technology officer for Microsoft NZ, says, “It is heartening to see 87 per cent of businesses prioritise skilling and reskilling of workers in the future. They plan to invest as much, or even more, in human capital than in new technology.

“Even so, 67 per cent of business leaders have yet to implement plans to help their employees obtain the right skills, which is worrying in today’s context. They must have the urgency to support the fundamental shift in training workers for the future.”

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“The jobs of today will not be the jobs of tomorrow, and we have already seen demand for software engineering roles expand rapidly beyond just the tech sector. However, building an AI-ready workforce does not necessarily mean an acute need for technological skills,” notes Craig.

According to the IDC report, the top three future skills required by business leaders in New Zealand include digital skills and critical thinking and decision making, as well as quantitative, analytical and statistical skills. “The demand for these skills is higher than the existing supply,” it states.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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