Ai, threat or opportunity?
Much is being said about artificial intelligence, a booming technology that combines fascination and fear in the collective imagination. While large technology companies tend to promote the idea that AI will have a beneficial impact on work, many fear that their jobs will be threatened, particularly by robotization, and are suspicious of it. So are robots creating or destroying jobs? According to Lee Kai-Fu, president of the Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute, social discontent is justified, and he predicts a very high rate of job losses due to machines, such as customer services, receptionists, drivers, and other blue-collar and white-collar occupations (MIT Technology Review). He believes that this will be the fastest transition humanity has ever known, and that we are not ready for it.
But his opinion is contested and studies show, with supporting evidence, that robots create jobs in companies. Let us be careful with preconceived ideas, and for example, let us not think that industrial automation is necessarily correlated with an increase in the unemployment rate. A study by Mandarine Gestion in 2017 showed that countries with the highest robots per worker ratio (Germany, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea) are also those with the lowest unemployment rates. The report notes that robotization reduces labour costs, improves logistics and allows local production to become competitive again. In 2016, OECD experts concluded that only 9% of French workers were “at high risk of substitution” by artificial intelligence.
There is therefore a real risk of some jobs disappearing, but this remains measured, and the transition to an AI society offers many professional opportunities.
So what are the new jobs of tomorrow?
It is certain that the world of work will increasingly be impacted by AI, and that some professions or sectors will disappear while others will emerge. We must prepare now and train our students and workers in the trades of the future because AI is developing very quickly, and is already affecting the current generation of workers.
Among the “jobs of the future”, we immediately think of data scientists and researchers in artificial intelligence who are, in fact, very much in demand. But there are many other less elitist and equally necessary skills related to AI. On the IT development side, you need specialists in AI applied to the business world. Indeed, these specialists will meet the more concrete and practical needs of the business world than what is offered by university research or computer science schools, which still provide highly theoretical training today.
An increasing need for new talent and new types of training
Companies in France are reporting a talent shortage and are becoming more involved in courses and training programs on all digital topics. These include the partnerships between Microsoft, Orange Cyberdefense and the ECE (School of Computer and General Engineering); IBM and their IBM France Academy initiative; the LDLC school and Stage301 created by Klaxoon, MV Group and HelloWork. These companies are increasingly reaching out to the academic world to provide training for job seekers, early school leavers and people undergoing vocational retraining.
This is what Microsoft did in collaboration with Simplon (a social and solidarity-based code training company), by creating an alternative school called the AI Microsoft School in Issy-les-Moulineaux.
The school is particularly intended for people from working-class districts with low levels of education, and for women. The idea is to train AI craftsmen and technicians, with a Bac+2, Bac+3 level, who will work with data scientists from Bac+5 to Bac+8 level. These training courses meet the needs of intermediate professions, as companies struggle to recruit people who know how to feed and train the new technological drivers of the economy. Microsoft sees AI as a vehicle for inclusion, and says it is part of a global approach to develop the French digital ecosystem to train people for the various professions of the future.
Many new possible careers thanks to AI
At the same time, building artificial intelligence necessitates the construction of a good dataset. It therefore requires a number of “data managers” to build and control it, such as annotators (who initiate the construction of the dataset); ontology experts (to structure the datasets, define the different classes and ensure the effectiveness of the dataset); or performance controllers (to test algorithms) and ethical controllers (attentive to the risks of gender bias, racist or other). Again, these are trades whose skills can be acquired quickly and efficiently, and which offer many employment opportunities for the technicians of tomorrow.
Finally, to support the digital transition and manage the upheavals it may bring, there is a growing demand for change management consultants or specialists in AI business applications. Their aim is to facilitate the digital transition that is taking place throughout society and prepare companies to equip themselves and transmit artificial intelligence (particularly in recruitment and training centres) in order to adapt to the world of tomorrow.
We are shaping our future right now, so I invite companies to think about their digital transformation, the inevitable evolution of their human resources and the benefits they can reap from it: help create the jobs of tomorrow!