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Employers Want New Grads with AI Experience, Knowledge

A vast majority of U.S. professionals  think students should be prepared to use AI upon entering the workforce.

Influenced by feedback from employers, recruiters and their alums, some colleges and universities now offer master’s degrees in generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) as well as undergraduate classes to prepare their students for the demands of the new workforce.

A vast majority of U.S. professionals (83 percent) think students should be prepared to use AI upon entering the workforce, and they expect higher education to play a critical role in that preparation, according to a nationwide survey of 1,200 professionals.

The survey from Washington State University Carson College of Business and Research, in partnership with KRC Research, was conducted Nov. 28 to Dec. 16 and explored awareness and attitudes toward AI training and readiness initiatives in the workforce.

Among the key findings:

  • 88 percent think U.S. colleges and universities should provide educational opportunities for students to learn about AI and its practical uses.
  • 74 percent think incoming college graduates should already have AI user experience prior to entering the workforce. More than half (56 percent) of professionals said they already are using AI for tasks such as analyzing data and to produce content or communications.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. professionals (65 percent) think the U.S. will likely become less competitive than other countries if colleges and universities do not provide dedicated education and training on AI technologies.

They also said higher education can do more to prepare students, including educating them on AI risks. The top three skills professionals ranked as most important for effectively and appropriately using AI were:

  • Critical thinking.
  • Technical skills.
  • Logical thinking.

“AI tools work best when they are used by capable, thoughtful professionals in a collaborative way,” said Debbie Compeau, Carson’s interim dean and the Hubman Distinguished Professor of Information Systems. “Workers need to know how to use various tools that might support their work, when to use which tools and when not to rely on the tools.”

Being cognizant of AI’s limitations—such as learning to recognize situations when it can give incorrect information—is essential, she told SHRM Online.

“This also involves recognizing the ethical questions about using AI.” Unconscious biases can become embedded in tools and go unrecognized, Compeau pointed out. It’s important, she said, to factor that into decisions about the appropriateness of AI use in different circumstances.

Seventy-four percent of senior leaders think AI is likely to cause long-lasting transformative changes that positively impact work in their industry. Some organizations have already created chief AI officer (CAIO) roles.

“HR executives have been looking for talent that has AI knowhow, and organizations across many different sectors have recently created CAIO positions—many of them doing so after November 2022, when OpenAI launched ChatGPT,” SHRM Online reported Feb. 15 in an article that looked at whether organizations need CAIOs.

SHRM Online collected the following news articles on the role higher education is playing in preparing students on how to use AI in the workplace.

Students Can Now Major in AI

Though many workers view GenAI as a threat to white-collar jobs, younger generations hope to build careers around the technology. Enter undergraduate AI-engineering programs. The University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science announced Feb. 13 it will offer a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering and artificial intelligence next fall, the first undergraduate major of its kind among Ivy League universities and one of the first AI undergraduate engineering programs in the U.S.


Looking for Workers with AI Knowledge? Consider Business School Grads

The increasing use of GenAI in the workplace is expected to transform many roles and require new skill sets for employees, according to research recently released by SHRM, even as employers say employees lack the necessary training and HR managers anticipate a GenAI skills gap.

The Villanova School of Business (VSB) is among higher education institutions that are integrating AI into their curricula to meet employers’ needs. It is one of four schools that Fortune highlighted in 2023 for offering a specialized MBA program in AI.
(SHRM Online)

Higher Education Plays a Big Role in Preparing Graduates for an AI-Led Economy

A career development expert shares how higher education institutions should prepare their students for the future of work.


Opinion: Preparing Students for the AI-Enhanced Workforce

Our graduating and certificate-completing students need documented GenAI skills and they need them now.

(Inside Higher Ed)

ChatGPT Is the Most Sought Out Tech Skill in the Workforce, Says Learning Platform

Udemy, an online learning platform, compiled a Global Workplace Learning Index in which the company analyzes its course consumption to see what skills businesses are the most interested in. The index showed that the top global tech skill for businesses in the first quarter of 2023 was ChatGPT, which experienced a 4,419 percent increase in global topic consumption from the fourth quarter of 2022. 



​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.