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September 9, 2019updated 10 Sep 2019 9:44am

Mass Disruption: AI, Automation Mean 120 Million Workers Need Retraining within 3 Years

Retraining urgent, yet taking longer...

By CBR Staff Writer

Over 120 million workers will have to be retrained within the next three years due to mass disruption caused by AI and automation.

That’s according to a new study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, based on input from 5,670 global executives in 48 countries.

The issue is not just one of jobs being lost, but the lack of a strong skills base to underpin the emerging technologies, with the institute warning that the time it takes to close a skills gap through training is growing.

Interestingly, the report finds that executives see technical core STEM capabilities – along with basic computer and software skills – as significantly less important than they did three years ago. Conversely, they rate softer skills, flexibility and adaptability as more important.

According to the global research, the time it takes to close a skills gap through training has increased ten-fold in just four years.

In 2014, it took three days on average to close a capability gap through training in the enterprise; in 2018, it took 36 days.

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“Organizations are facing mounting concerns over the widening skills gap and tightened labor markets with the potential to impact their futures as well as worldwide economies,” said IBM managing partner Amy Wright, adding: “While executives recognize the severity of the problem, half of those surveyed admit that they do not have any skills development strategies in place to address their largest gaps.

“And the tactics the study found were most likely to close the skills gap the fastest are the tactics companies are using the least. New strategies are emerging to help companies reskill their people and build the culture of continuous learning required to succeed in the era of AI.”

Mass Disruption: CEOs Not Confident in Skills Base

Fewer than half of the CEOs surveyed for the study stated that they had the people, skills and resources in place to fully execute their business strategies, with 59 percent saying that they are not fully confident that they have the capabilities to get the job done in the coming years.

As the report notes, that the rate at which professional skills are becoming ‘obsolete’ is increasing at a fast pace.

Previously professional skills were expected to last and be up to date for at least 10 to 15 years, over which time the skill or knowledge base associated with certain tasks would decline by half.

However, the report states that: “The half-life of a learned skill is estimated to be five years and even shorter for technical skills, meaning a skill learned today will be about half as valuable in just five years or less.”

The shift has also been captured neatly by Deloitte, which in a report earlier this year noted: “In traditional job design, organizations create fixed, stable roles with written job descriptions and then add supervisory and management positions on top.

“When parts of jobs are automated by machines, the work that remains for humans is generally more interpretive and service-oriented, involving problem-solving, data interpretation, communications and listening, customer service and empathy, and teamwork and collaboration. However, these higher-level skills are not fixed tasks like traditional jobs, so they are forcing organizations to create more flexible and evolving, less rigidly defined positions and roles.”

IBM conducted the study as it prepares to launch a new education programme alongside the Josh Bersin Academy, a development academy for HR specialists who need to spearhead new strategic agendas in business.

The Academy will soon launch its newest program, HR in the Age of AI, which was created with input from IBM subject matter experts.

“AI is hands down the biggest challenge facing HR leaders today,” said Josh Bersin, global independent analyst and founder the Josh Bersin Academy.  “We selected IBM as our partner for this program because of its recognized leadership in the development and application of AI-related technology and because IBM has actually used AI technology to dramatically transform its own HR organization.”

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