AI impact means over 120m workers need retraining: Poll

A service robot delivering food to customers on the opening day of the "Robot" restaurant in Bangalore on Aug 17. The restaurant has introduced five robots to interact with and serve food to its customers.
A service robot delivering food to customers on the opening day of the "Robot" restaurant in Bangalore on Aug 17. The restaurant has introduced five robots to interact with and serve food to its customers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Reskilling critical globally over next 3 years given artificial intelligence's effect on jobs

NEW YORK • More than 120 million workers globally will need retraining in the next three years due to the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs, according to an IBM survey.

That is a top concern for many employers who say talent shortage is one of the greatest threats to their organisations today.

The training required these days is longer than it used to be - workers need 36 days of training to close a skills gap versus three days in 2014, IBM noted in the survey.

Some skills take longer to develop because they are either more behavioural in nature, such as teamwork and communication, or highly technical, such as data science capabilities.

"Reskilling for technical skills is typically driven by structured education with a defined objective," wrote IBM managing director for talent, Ms Amy Wright. "Building behavioural skills takes more time and is more complex."

Behavioural skills, such as the ability to work well on a team, communication, creativity and empathy are best developed through experience rather than structured learning programmes like a webinar.

When employers say they are facing a skills shortage, the first thing that comes to mind is coding experience or another advanced technical skill set.

Yet, employers are now calling for more emphasis on soft skills such as communication skills, ethics and creativity rather than technical skills, a switch over the last few years, the survey noted. Behavioural skills are now seen as critical apart from digital and technical capabilities.

Advancements in AI are expected to not only displace jobs but also create new ones.

The challenge will be upskilling workers to fill the new jobs. Several ways to close the skills gap include hiring talent from other countries, from outside the organisation and moving employees across divisions, said IBM.

An estimated 50.3 million Chinese workers may require retraining as a result of intelligent automation over the next three years, according to the IBM study.

This is followed by 11.5 million workers in America and 7.2 million in Brazil. Japan and Germany round out the top five countries with 4.9 million and 2.9 million workers, respectively.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2019, with the headline 'AI impact means over 120m workers need retraining: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe