Where Did my Job Go?

12425218070?profile=RESIZE_400xAI might not be coming for all jobs, but it might be coming for some.  UPS’s  https://www.ups.com  largest layoff in its 116-year history was the result of, in part, new technologies, including AI, CEO Carol Tomé said during an earnings call in February 2024.  Meanwhile, IBM plans to pause hiring for roles it thinks could soon be automated by AI, CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg in 2023.

Workers are not optimistic about the future.  In a recent survey from McKinsey, 25% of business professionals said that they expect their employer to lay off staff due to AI adoption; their pessimism is not misplaced. According to one estimate, around 4,000 workers have lost their jobs to AI since May 2023.  In a poll from Beautiful.ai, which makes AI-powered presentation software, nearly half of managers said they hope to replace workers with AI.[1]

A supporter of Big Tech vendors and consultancies called the AI-Enabled ICT Workforce Consortium (ITC) aims to push back against the notion that AI will lead to job losses, citing the need for re-skilling and upskilling within the information and communication technology (ICT) industry specifically.  Cisco is leading the ITC with Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, SAP, and Accenture support. The ITC’s mandate is to explore AI’s impact on jobs while enabling people to find AI-related training programs and connecting businesses to “skilled and job-ready” workers, a spokesperson told TechCrunch in a briefing.

“The ITC’s unique approach will research and evaluate the impact of AI on specific job roles, including skills and tasks, and recommend training for an AI-enabled ICT workforce,” the spokesperson said. “Consortium members and advisers share a common perspective that a greater sense of urgency is required to understand the impact of AI on key job roles within the ICT Industry.”

In the first phase of its work, the ITC will evaluate AI's impact on 56 ICT job roles and provide training recommendations for the affected roles. The 56 roles, which the ITC hasn’t disclosed yet, were selected for their “strategic significance” in the broader ICT ecosystem and AI’s impact on the tasks required to perform them, the spokesperson said, as well as roles that offer “promising entry points” for low-level workers.

“These job roles include 80% of the top 45 ICT job titles garnering the highest volume of job postings for the period February 2023–2024 in the U.S. and five of the largest European countries by ICT workforce numbers (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands),” the spokesperson said. “These countries account for a significant segment of the ICT sector, with a total of 10 million ICT workers.”  The ITC intends to publish its findings in a report in the summer of 2024.

“The Consortium will determine its ‘phase 2’ scope in mid-2024,” the spokesperson said. “As we progress towards phase 2, the Consortium may consider extending invitations to other organizations and institutions to join our collaborative efforts in supporting the success of an AI-enabled ICT workforce.”  If the goal is to allay fears of a mass AI threatening livelihoods, tech incumbents will need to deliver a lot more than vague promises and reports. IBM has pledged to skill 2 million people in AI by 2030; Intel has said it will “upskill” over 30 million with AI in the same timeframe. “Consortium members have established forward-thinking goals with skills development and training programs to positively impact over 95 million individuals worldwide over the next 10 years,” the spokesperson said.

According to a recent analysis by Lightcast, a labor market analytics firm, the demand for AI roles is decreasing, not increasing. In 2022, AI-related positions comprised 2% of all job postings in the U.S. In 2023, that figure dipped to 1.6%.  “Consortium members commit to developing worker pathways, particularly in job sectors that will increasingly integrate artificial intelligence technology,” the spokesperson said. “It’s a voluntary and transparent effort across companies to assess the impact and identify paths for upskilling and reskilling of technology roles most likely to be impacted by AI … We intend this work to produce real, tangible recommendations that will address business and worker needs.”

Jim McKee, CEO of Red Sky Alliance, stated, “If I were a young person, I would skip college, and I would enroll in a program to become a licensed plumber since AI will never be trained to fix a toilet.”


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[1] https://techcrunch.com/2024/04/04/big-tech-companies-form-new-consortium-to-allay-fears-of-ai-job-takeovers/

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