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It’s Back to School for Employees Learning Generative AI

Now that generative AI (GenAI) is poised to power a new era of corporate growth, courses are being offered to employees who must learn how the technology can make their work more efficient as companies that are eager to stay competitive seek to avoid GenAI skills gaps.

The latest branch of AI promises to redesign employees’ workflow with the aim of boosting productivity and cutting costs. In short, GenAI is a ubiquitous and disruptive technology that employers will have to embrace, employees will have to understand and chief learning officers will have to strategize around.

“It’s no longer enough to learn a set of skills once and expect that to last your entire career. Our challenge in 2024 as learning and development practitioners is to help employees move from lacking understanding of what generative AI technology can do to embracing its potential to be more productive. In a world of work changing this fast, it’s our job to help reframe mindsets to see all that teams stand to gain with the help of GenAI,” said Stephanie Conway, senior director of talent development at LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s data shows that the rise of GenAI is, in part, accelerating the massive upskilling trends that have bolstered the challenge all companies are facing, Conway added.

“The skills required for many jobs have changed by a staggering 25 percent since 2015, with that number expected to reach at least 65 percent by 2030 due to the rapid development of new technologies,” she said.

Many organizations offering IT training courses are seizing the moment. In January, Coursera, an online course provider, launched its Generative AI Academy. Along with its partners, Coursera offers several GenAI courses that include:

  • Prompt Engineering for ChatGPT (Vanderbilt University)
  • Generative AI with Large Language Models (DeepLearning.AI)
  • Introduction to Generative AI (Google Cloud).
  • Generative AI for Data Scientists (IBM).
  • Generative AI for Software Developers (IBM).
  • Generative AI for Everyone (DeepLearning.AI and Andrew Ng). This was the most popular course of 2023, with 65,000 learners enrolled in the first two weeks.

As companies weigh the benefits and risks of GenAI, many companies face a “GenAI conundrum,” said Trena Minudri, vice president and chief learning officer at Coursera. 

“On one hand, companies risk ethical, data and regulatory pitfalls if they move too quickly, but they may lose their competitive edge if they’re too cautious. The key to navigating this conundrum lies in high-quality training and structured programs that enable workforces to adopt GenAI both quickly and safely,” Minudri said.

She added that effective collaboration between departments and HR or people leaders will be critical for developing structured, role-based learning pathways that not only incentivize employees to develop vital skills but also unlock the full potential of GenAI within the organization.

“Leaders will need to encourage every employee—whether they’re a CEO, a knowledge worker or on the front lines—to adopt a beginner’s and growth mindset. It’s about dispelling fear of the unknown, inviting employees on the journey, and creating a culture that encourages curiosity and promotes continuous learning, where every question asked is a step forward,” Minudri said.

Over at San Francisco-based education technology company Udemy, courses are offered on GenAI topics such as ChatGPT, Midjourney and prompt engineering, which involves developing specific instructions or queries that generate desired responses from the language model being used. 

“Our customers prefer to learn about generative AI through custom learning paths, providing a greater understanding of how the technology can be leveraged across departments and roles,” said Scott Rogers, senior vice president of supply strategy at Udemy.

Based on preliminary learning data at Udemy, the top 10 industries for which organizations are empowering their employees with GenAI skills are: professional services, consulting services, technology, manufacturing, retail, financial services, entertainment and media, education, government, and life sciences.

“Understanding how to use generative AI ethically, applying ethical principles to AI platforms and learning how to defend against the improper uses of AI, both internal usage and external efforts in your organization, will be increasingly important,” Rogers said.

Beware the GenAI Skills Gap

As HR stakeholders responsible for employee training make their plans, data from a report by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Access Partnership, a global policy consulting firm, shows that more than 90 percent of both employers and employees surveyed expect to benefit from GenAI’s ability to create new content and ideas, which are capabilities that distinguish GenAI from traditional AI systems that are designed to recognize patterns and make predictions.

The report goes on to note that 42 percent of surveyed employers are actively looking for people with AI development qualifications today, and this will rise to 51 percent in the next five years. The speedy transition to an AI-enabled workforce has caused a labor market shortage for AI talent.

Orla Daly, chief information officer at Skillsoft, another company that offers GenAI courses, expects skills gaps to be a perpetual feature of the IT talent marketplace.

“I don’t know that we will ever close the skills gap, and part of the reason, especially in tech, is that the pace at which technology is evolving means there is always a need for new skills. It is extremely challenging for anyone to be able to keep up with the pace at which technology is changing, so there’s always going to be a gap. We are never going to be able to retrain fast enough,” Daly said.

The AWS and Access Partnership report also noted that 75 percent of employers who consider hiring talent with AI skills to be a priority have difficulty finding qualified candidates. The study also found a training awareness gap.

“Close to 80 percent of employers said that they don’t know how to implement an AI training program. Similarly, 79 percent of workers say that they aren’t sure what AI training programs are available to them,” the report stated.

According to Minudri, everyone will need new skills to utilize the GenAI opportunity, necessitating companywide investments in training.

“GenAI presents a unique opportunity for leaders to unify the workforce, regardless of role and level, around a technology that can both improve the individual performance and productivity of employees as well as accelerate team effectiveness and company results,” Minudri said.

In the meantime, the use of GenAI in training programs can present opportunities such as using the technology to generate realistic simulations, interactive scenarios and personalized feedback, said Hannah Johnson, senior vice president for tech talent programs at CompTIA, a trade association that issues professional certifications for the IT industry.

CompTIA is prototyping the use of GenAI to provide real-life durable skills scenarios a learner may encounter that require critical thinking to respond, rather than traditional static learning methods such as multiple-choice question.

“We can also cater the content to represent the specific scenarios the role may encounter on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately, we are hoping this will build their confidence to deal with these scenarios more effectively on the job or even in advance of a promotion,” Johnson said.

There are challenges, too, such as an overreliance on GenAI. It’s crucial to strike a balance between AI-driven personalization and human expertise, Johnson said.

“Instructors should still guide and mentor learners, ensuring quality control and addressing limitations inherent to generative AI,” Johnson said. “While it’s an incredible tool to train and prepare employees, humans are still unpredictable. We still need to emphasize that while we have these incredible tools available, there is still much to be learned from the human-to-human experience.”

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.