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AI Skills Will Be Crucial for Job Seekers

Future job security for many may hinge on AI fluency

woman at computer in office

About 34 percent of job seekers said understanding AI fundamentals is an important skill needed today, while 90 percent said general digital skills are important, regardless of industry, occupation, education level or generational demographics.

That’s according to CompTIA’s Job Seeker Trends survey of 1,000 U.S. job seekers in January. About two-thirds (67 percent) of those job seekers said they were aware of discussions around AI and the potential impact on the workforce, while 33 percent said they were not.

“The latest wave of job seeker data shows a continuation of the near universal recognition of the importance of digital skills across today’s workforce,” said Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, a leading association for the IT industry, based in Downers Grove, Ill.

“There is an element of ‘pull’ to this trend with employers increasingly requiring digitally savvy workers across more job roles at more job levels,” he said. “The ‘push’ element comes in job seekers bringing the digital tools they know and use to the job, with innovation often driven by workers’ push for better digital tools across the organization.”

Herbert said the spike in AI interest among job seekers “may partially reflect AI hype—such as the news headlines touting prompt engineers earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, and also job seekers wanting to best position themselves for opportunities.”

A separate study from CompTIA confirms that HR executives see significant potential in leveraging AI-enabled applications and platforms to streamline HR processes and enhance talent development.

Moreover, AI-related job postings are rising, hitting 2 percent of all jobs at the end of February, according to Indeed. While still a very small share of total U.S. jobs, generative AI (GenAI)-related jobs have grown rapidly since January 2023, to about 0.1 percent of all jobs.

“Companies have been hiring for roles related to other AI skills and technologies more broadly—think machine learning—for years,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “However, growth in broader AI jobs is far more muted than growth in GenAI-specific jobs, even as the total level of broad AI jobs remains much higher.”

Bunker added that the recent uptick in AI job postings is attributable not to a pick-up in job postings in AI-heavy sectors, but rather an increase in the AI share of job postings across sectors, particularly for software development jobs.

“We’ve seen interest in GenAI show up dramatically since the launch of ChatGPT,” said Art Zeile, president and CEO of DHI Group, a provider of career marketplaces—including Dice and ClearanceJobs—for technology-focused roles.

“About 10 percent of all technology jobs posted in February had a need for AI skills,” he said. “That’s up from 1 percent at the beginning of 2023.”

Zeile added that the need for AI skills will be massive and will affect every occupational area as AI is integrated into everybody’s workflow. “Using AI to become more efficient has already become a top priority for CEOs,” he said.

Sara Gutierrez, chief science officer at talent assessment firm SHL, based in suburban London, said that as more companies embrace and invest in AI capabilities for their products and services, “we anticipate this investment to be mirrored in their hiring strategies, with a heightened emphasis on recruiting talent with AI skills to spearhead innovation and drive efficiency within their organizations.”

Gutierrez foresees a notable shift in focus and resource allocation, within the tech sector, toward AI. “AI-related roles command higher compensation compared to non-AI positions, highlighting the high demand for skilled AI professionals and the competitive nature of the job market in this field,” she said.

AI Skills in Demand

Zeile said the big consulting firms—Accenture, Deloitte and IBM, for example—are currently implementing AI at scale, and this is apparent in their job listings.

“That makes sense, because every major technology development I’ve seen over the last 30 years has always shown up at the consulting firms first,” he said. “They are hiring AI professionals and escalating projects for large clients, as a precursor to the larger companies hiring AI engineers themselves.”

Zeile said the lion’s share of job listings seeking AI skills are for data scientists, data analysts, data engineers, and machine learning engineers.

Herbert said that as organizations transition from AI experimentation to implementation, skills and job role needs tend to fall into the following primary categories:

Technical. Similar to prior waves of innovation, AI provides a new tool in the toolkit of software developers, cybersecurity engineers, IT support specialists, data scientists and related tech job roles, Herbert said. “These can often be characterized as stackable skills whereby these professionals incorporate AI-enabled tools into existing workflows. For example, a software developer using AI-enabled coding or software testing tools, or IT support specialist leveraging AI-enabled help desk ticket management systems for faster, more efficient response to support inquiries.”

Process automation. This refers to the practical application of technology to solve business problems, Herbert said. Skills needs include UI/UX design, project management, instructional or organizational design, customer experience specialists, and related roles, he noted.

Generative content. “From learning to craft and refine prompts to produce better GenAI output to learning how AI-enabled tools complement their own effort,” Herbert said, “these are the types of AI fluency skills employers are starting to seek in workers and job candidates in digital roles.”

What Employers Can Do

Despite explosive growth around AI, most workers lack the relevant skills and expect their employers to help them bridge that gap. A supercharged culture of continuous learning and development will be needed.

“We are seeing a cottage industry emerging to train people on AI and GenAI,” Zeile said. “There isn’t any one dominant force in this space yet, but people can learn how to create better prompts for GenAI, and the theories behind AI in general, through short-format courses with Coursera or Udemy.”

He added that AI skills will soon start to be standardized in certifications, with the established enterprise technology companies coming up with their own certifications.

Herbet said employers have a growing range of options in learning and skills development pathways for their workforce. “Like any disruptive change, those that focus on breaking down big challenges into smaller, incremental steps will be better positioned to make progress,” he said. “The balancing act comes in allocating finite training time and resources to begin developing AI fluency skills, but not to the detriment of other critical digital skills in the areas of data analytics, cybersecurity and applications.”

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