Why upskilling, reskilling are vital in the era of artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Data is the lifeblood of AI models.

Photo credit: Courtesy | Reuters

Every day, we wake up to a new generative AI (gen AI) that is taking over some of the work we perform. Our old fears of robots and robotics taking over industrial jobs have now come through the window into the comfort of our offices.

This then calls for all of us to embrace this new technology and the changes that come with it. For individual and organisational adaptability, it will require embracing it through retraining, reskilling and upskilling, reorganising the workforce and even tough decisions like letting go and hiring new staff.

The nature of work and jobs has therefore changed and we have to ask ourselves, “What’s the difference now”, and “What can we expect in the future?”. A recent study by McKinsey Consulting Group, Generative AI: How Will it affect future jobs and workflows, indicates that the impact of gen AI alone could automate almost 10 percent of tasks in the US economy.

With the rapid adaptation of such technologies by the rest of the world, thanks to the global village phenomenon, we can predict with certainty we will see the same trend here. In fact, being late adopters of the most refined technology, we are likely to see rapid and tumultuous changes coming much faster.

With this development, it beholds us to be quick in changing according to the changing time. Whereas the early stages of gen AI had predicted that the most affected will be the low cadres of workers, the reality now is that even the middle and upper end of the workforce is feeling the heat.

Today, writers, researchers, creatives, lawyers, and consultants are recalibrating their skills to work differently. We have already seen gen AI creative artworks dotting our newspapers, electronic media, and outside advertising among other channels.

Then the questions we all need to ask ourselves at this juncture is, “how do we make sure that workers in those jobs can reskill and upskill?” The immediate challenge is the availability of appropriate infrastructural set-up to ensure the opportunity is not a missed one.

A full digital transformation will require round-the-clock internet availability, affordable electronic gadgets for the youth and training opportunities for skilling, reskilling and upskilling.

As we mainstream gen AI in our lives, work and business processes, we need to be alive to the fact that it does not enhance inequity, inequality, discrimination and other negative outcomes. We have to robustly discuss the potential ethical dilemmas that will arise.

Secondly, the expected scale and the scope of the workforce transitions are likely to be as disruptive before stability is found. The task will be how to handle the potential values and risks of gen AI at the same time.

Thirdly, human resource departments will have to rejig their hiring, retraining, redeployment, promotion and release their staff policies and procedures as the mix of occupations and skills needed across a company’s workforce will be transformed by gen AI and other AI programmes.

HR professionals will have to figure out what the future of work will look like, how can workers be supported as their activities shift over time, what retraining programmes can be put in place, and what incentives to provide as they retrain in the new skills.

All of us are at the beginning of a journey to understand this technology’s power, reach, and capabilities. We need to walk this journey together for the betterment of our country and the world.

The writer is the Chief Executive Officer at Konza Technopolis Development Authority.

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