AI will take away your job, unless you work in AI

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AI, so the doom mongering goes, will steal all our jobs and leave us with a lot of ‘leisure’ time to do ‘creative’ things with.

According to a panel session at the recent DSP Leaders Summit, this is only partially true (AI will take away vast swathes of repetitive jobs – like sifting resumes) while in their world the opposite is true.

There is a skills shortage in the telecoms and IT sectors which is quite worrying. Training people to drive sectors like AI, which in itself is so new (in its current form) is a real challenge.

A huge study in Japan points to a job shortfall of the order of 200,000 in a couple of years’ time. Swisscom pops over to Rotterdam to recruit AI savvy people. And the problem for telecoms particularly is summarised by the fact that when arguably the top University in the US has job fairs, you will see Facebook and Google and Amazon but you won’t see Verizon or AT&T. No wonder that the tech giants are scooping the brightest and best and the telcos sit and whinge about it. And nobody likes a whinger.

There is hope for the telecoms industry. Ann Potterton of BT runs a 6,000 strong apprentice scheme and has been trying to get other telcos to adopt similar programmes (properly adopt, not just nod and recruit a couple of apprentices).

Potterton puts the case for young people taking apprenticeships rather than going to University. Why, the argument goes, take four years to get the academic qualifications while saddling yourself with debt that will in all likelihood be with you into middle age. Why not get real life experience where the emphasis is on training you and pushing you into the organisation – and upwards.

There is the opposite argument, of course, and Reagan Turner, a post graduate student from Salford University, says he is very happy with the level of training he received. He is looking forward to a career in AI or whatever comes next. Potterton remarked that he would probably get a few job offers if he stayed around after the panel session and Turner said he had already had a few conversations, thank you.

Josh Fowler, on the other hand, took an apprenticeship with CenturyLink and is already making his way up the organisation and making a decent living (free of student loans).

The conclusion has to be that while we will continue to see and write about AI devastating parts of the job market, forward looking technologies will continue to suffer from a skills shortage.

We will see the same sort of shift that we saw when the world shifted from a manufacturing economy into an IT lead one.

And if you are looking for the next big thing, why not look at brain machine interfaces. Shipments are set to top 23 million units by 2030, according to Juniper Research.

But that is another story.

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