When Minneapolis-based Tony Nguyen lost his job as a manager at a sandwich shop during the pandemic, he decided his next move was to jump into tech. After spending his first five years after college in the restaurant industry, Nguyen wanted to learn new skills like process automation and data analysis.
To help, Nguyen turned to Trailhead, Salesforce’s training and workforce development platform, where he earned certifications, completed programs and eventually landed a job as an administrator managing data and analytics for Salesforce products.
“Growing up I loved playing video games and with computers—it’s always been a passion,” Nguyen says. The next skill Nguyen wants to learn? Generative AI.
In a global survey of 11,000 workers conducted by Salesforce, only one in 10 employees said their day-to-day role currently involves artificial intelligence. But with the rise in technologies like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the shift to skills-based hiring and an increasing focus on improving existing workforces amid the threat of a downturn, 80% of senior IT leaders cited a need to recruit and upskill employees in generative AI.
“[AI] is showing up everywhere, in every job,” says Ann Weeby, senior vice president of Trailhead at Salesforce, which is adding AI programs to Trailhead’s course catalog. “Skills are changing, technology is changing and workers are being left behind.”
The talent shortage for AI skills is widespread. When software firm SAS Institute polled managers at 111 U.S.-, U.K.- and Ireland-based organizations about the skills gap, 63% said they don’t have enough employees with AI and machine learning skills.
As bosses look to increase workplace development, venture capitalists are predicting AI, virtual reality and virtual-learning startups will dominate the education technology space this year. Universities are increasingly creating AI degree programs and resources, such as Carnegie Mellon University’s AI degree in 2018MIT’s 2018 $1 billion investment in a new college for AI and Emory University’s upcoming Center for AI Learning.
But according to chatbot maker Tidio, nearly 69% of college graduates think AI could take their job or make it irrelevant in a few years.
At SymphonyAI, chief people officer Jennifer Trzepacz says the enterprise AI company is thinking more and more about including AI in how workers operate. “A lot of people might be anxious about what AI means for them or for their job,” says Trzepacz, but AI is reducing administrative tasks to make room for more time for collaboration and innovation.
“AI is part of the future,” she says. “We need to be curious and learn about it.” To help employees learn more about AI uses, Trzepacz says the company has created an initiative called “AI Is For Everyone” to increase awareness of AI applications and technology among employees.
David Fontain’s insurance technology company Foresight uses AI in its products to generate safety compliance recommendations for its customers.
“[AI] is not just a buzzword,” he says. Rather, it’s already useful at Foresight in practical applications and streamlining work processes, with machine learning and AI taking “the guessing game out of worker safety,” he says.
Leaders like Fontain say AI is just another tech evolution that workers need to level up on. And as the shift toward skills-based hiring increases, 82% of managers in Salesforce’s survey cited skills as the most important attribute when evaluating job applicants.
Now a hiring manager himself, Nguyen says he looks at job candidates’ Trailhead accounts to determine if they are staying up to date with technologies and if they have an appetite for gaining new skills. “You always have to upskill yourself,” he says.