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UK tech leaders given new framework to boost workforce AI skills

Government experts have developed four personas to help businesses ensure their staff have access to useful AI training.

By Matthew Gooding

New guidance on how businesses can boost the AI skills of their teams has been published by the government.

Many companies are struggling with an AI skills shortage. (Photo by Chay_Tee/Shutterstock)

Developed with experts from Innovate UK’s BridgeAI programme and the Alan Turing Institute for AI research, the draft framework is intended to help employers boost their employees’ understanding of AI so they can use it safely in their day-to-day roles, by setting out the key knowledge, skills and behaviours they should have to reap the benefits of AI safely – including how to use artificial intelligence tools effectively such as Large Language Models and the safe and secure management of sensitive data.

It launches as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prepares to visit the site of one of Microsoft’s new AI data centres. The company this week announced it was investing £2.5bn in UK AI infrastructure over the next three years, signifying the level of interest in the technology.

The UK’s new AI guidance for businesses explained

While tech leaders across many business sectors are keen to use more AI technology, a lack of requisite skills is hindering successful deployments. According to Nash Squared’s Digital Leadership report, published last month, 35% of the 50,000 CIOs it surveyed from around the world identified access to skills as a key hurdle blocking the implementation of automation strategies.

The UK government guidance aims to help by providing advice in five key areas, from using AI to evaluate the performance of projects to how to build the skills and techniques needed to solve issues as people work with AI when they crop up.

Employees will be helped by employers and training providers to develop a deeper understanding of how their organisation works with AI, how they can further incorporate its use, and in turn what tools they need to tackle a particular task.

AI minister Viscount Camrose said: "Making sure workers up and down the country have the skills they need for their jobs with and in AI is a key part of our strategy in making the UK an AI powerhouse and ensuring the skills of our workforce keep pace with this rapidly developing technology.

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"This guidance will be vital in helping us realise that ambition, continuing an important conversation with businesses across the UK to make sure the steps they can take are practical, functional, and successful. 

"Having a workforce which is equipped to work alongside AI will drive growth for businesses and allow us to realise the enormous opportunities AI presents in every sector of our economy."

For tech leaders, the guidance sets out four distinct ‘personas’, which correspond to the level of AI expertise an individual may need. It is hoped this will help to quickly identify their skills gaps, and training providers to develop relevant training schemes to address these. 

"AI citizens" are defined in the guidance as members of the public who could be customers or employees of an organisation making use of AI. "AI workers" are employees whose day-to-day role sits outside of data and AI, but whose jobs are likely to be impacted by the technologies. "AI professionals" are also identified as employees with specific responsibilities around data and AI. In contrast, "AI leaders" are people in senior positions who help to oversee and introduce emerging technologies, such as individuals in board-level roles.

Microsoft continues UK AI investment

Hunt will join Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith and its UK CEO, Clare Barclay, on a visit to the site of an AI data centre currently under construction in North London.

The company's new investment in infrastructure was announced at the government's global investment summit, held last Sunday. It has "pledged £2.5bn to build critical AI infrastructure, bringing more next-generation AI datacentres and thousands of graphic processing units to the UK," according to a statement from Downing Street.

Microsoft has yet to reveal more details of what exactly the investment will entail. Tech Monitor has contacted the company for details.

The AI guidance is currently in draft form and can be found here. The government and its partner agencies are inviting businesses to send in feedback on its content and how it can be improved.

Read more: Investment in European tech start-ups sinks 50%

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