Ready for AI: Preparing Students for the Future of Work

3 minute read

To set up every student for success in the digital-human hybrid workforce, AI education is a must.

Schools have a responsibility to prepare students for success in their future careers, but the future of work is changing incredibly fast.

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, more than half of the workforce will be digital. Just five years after that, McKinsey (via Forbes) predicts that “up to 800 million global workers could be replaced by robots.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that 30% of job functions could be automated by 2030. UNESCO’s report also highlights how the jobs that AI can easily handle, such as repetitive, analytical and logical tasks, will be most at risk of replacement.

While these are striking predictions, don’t panic about future work opportunities. More than anything, these estimates serve as a wake-up call to key stakeholders in education that, because the workforce of the future will rely heavily on AI, school curriculums should reflect this reality to properly prepare students for success.

Learning about AI should no longer be reserved for students who are pursuing careers in computer science and software engineering. AI is becoming ubiquitous across all industries, such as retail, healthcare, banking and hospitality, so learning how to recognize and use AI should be accessible to all students, regardless of their intended career paths. By doing so, students will enter the workforce with the knowledge of how to use AI to their advantage, such as leveraging a Conversational AI-powered whisper agent when diagnosing a patient or managing a restaurant that uses digital agents to book reservations, take orders and process payments.

A standardized AI curriculum would also help increase the number and diversity of skilled AI workers. Students may be reluctant to actively pursue studying AI if they have been influenced by preconceived notions about their abilities. A UK-based survey of approx. 1,500 children between the ages of 8 and 18 found that “20% of kids who were not interested in AI said they did not think they were smart enough.” The World Economic Forum also reports that girls are often discouraged from studying STEM-related subjects because of false gender stereotypes. These social and cultural influences may prevent children, especially those who identify with underrepresented groups in the AI field, from even considering learning about AI.

To increase the number of women in STEM, many of the participants in our Women in AI program suggest introducing girls to AI curriculum from a young age. Karine Brunet, Chief Operating Officer of Capgemini’s Cloud and Infrastructure Services Business, says “we need to promote technology to girls when they are of a young age so that when they need to select future career options, technology is at the top of the list.” Namratha Nandagopal, Director of Application Development & Quality Assurance at Resorts World Las Vegas, suggests mentors should “nudge [young girls] toward potential robotics and coding subjects.”

Embedding AI education into standard school curriculum is beneficial both for individuals and for businesses. As enterprise AI adoption increases, the number of jobs that require workers to have AI or machine learning skills is also expected to increase, but as many companies will attest, it’s already challenging to hire for AI-related jobs due to the current limited talent pool. However, if all students are engaging with AI early on in their education, there will inevitably be more individuals entering the future workforce with the technical and AI skills that employers need.

Developing Students' Uniquely Human Skills

To succeed in the digital-human hybrid workforce, where AI handles repeatable tasks, individuals must also have exceptional soft skills. Jobs that require people to analyze data, memorize information and repeat tasks are likely to be managed by AI in the near future. However, jobs that rely on soft skills —creativity, collaboration, communication, resilience, empathy, leadership and self-regulation — will still require a human touch, making them highly valuable in the workforce.

While developing students’ ability to work with and alongside AI is a vital part of preparing them for future success, educators must also focus on helping students sharpen the skills that set humans apart from AI. At Amelia, we strongly believe that one of the greatest values of AI is its ability to free up people to leverage their uniquely human skills and take on more high-value, creative and complex work. As CEO Chetan Dube said in a fireside chat with graduate students from Stanford University, creative thinking is where “humans reign supreme.”

On this Day of AI, while students across the US and globally participate in exciting and interactive activities to introduce them to AI, we encourage educators, governments and industry leaders around the world to reflect on how they can ensure students everywhere are prepared to work seamlessly alongside AI, allowing them to realize the true promise of the digital-human hybrid workforce.

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