The UK Government is undertaking research to improve its understanding of the artificial intelligence (AI) labour market in the UK. The research will inform UK Government's policy on encouraging the growth of AI-related skills within the workplace.
What will this involve?
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Office for Artificial Intelligence have commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out a survey of UK businesses and charities who appear to use AI or data science technology (even if it's only a small part of their organisation), with the intention of examining:
- the AI and data science skills that those organisations need and use;
- those organisations' approaches to employing and training AI and data science professionals; and
- The recruitment and employment issues those organisations face in relation to AI and data science.
There are concerns that the UK is falling behind in the global AI race. A Microsoft study published in August 2020 indicated that businesses in the UK utilise less AI than their overseas counterparts. Microsoft's research also found that only 17% of UK employees feel that they receive sufficient AI re-skilling education (compared to the global average of 38%), and just 32% of UK employees think that their employers are preparing them for an AI-enabled future (compared to the global average of 42%). The full report can be viewed here.
The impact that AI advances may have on the UK labour market is also unclear, owing to a lack of empirical data. This has meant that it has been impossible to conduct meaningful economic impact assessments for example, and has therefore been challenging for the public and private sector to devise effective and focussed AI and data science strategies. These issues have become more relevant because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated digital transformation and has had a huge impact on employment and the wider economy.
What will this research achieve?
UK businesses must put adequate resource into reskilling existing employees, in addition to recruiting workers from an external talent pool of AI specialists, to meet the accelerated demand for AI technologies. The UK Government hopes that this research will go some way to highlighting the need to close the AI skills-gap in the UK labour market.
The UK Government's research will help inform its AI strategy. In particular, there will likely be a focus on how AI and data science will augment the existing workforce across a full breadth of industries, from manufacturing and retail to financial and professional services. This research is an important step, and further collaboration between businesses, academia and policy-makers will help the UK become a leader for AI innovation.
There is no indication of when the Government will release its findings, but we look forward to analysing them upon publication.
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