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Kingston University launches Future Skills report looking at impact of AI on workplace

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Only 7% of British business leaders believe graduates have skills to succeed in AI-driven world, as Kingston University calls for sector-wide adoption of radical blueprint for new skills curriculum

  • New polling shows 74% of British business leaders do not believe current university graduates are prepared to succeed in a world driven by artificial intelligence (AI), while half (50%) of all current students are concerned their jobs are under threat from AI.
  • The in-depth research of business leaders, students and a sample of the wider population is being launched alongside The Kingston Approach – a radical blueprint for skills development across the higher education sector.
  • The report is backed by leading British businesses, including the IP Group, Cisco and Salutem Healthcare.
  • Kingston University has this year rolled out the first phase of its new curriculum-wide Future Skills programme to give graduates future-proofed skills, such as problem solving, communication and resilience, to succeed in a rapidly changing workplace.
  • Every first year undergraduate across the University is now taking part in Future Skills modules as a core part of their degrees.

Britain’s leading businesses say current university graduates are not equipped for an AI-first world in new polling launched today(6 December), alongside a radical blueprint from Kingston University outlining the urgent need for skills development to be embedded across higher education.

The polling, commissioned by the University and conducted in partnership with YouGov, surveyed over 2,000 business leaders, 1,000 current full-time students and 2,000 members of the general public. It shows that:

  • Only 7% of businesses believe university graduates joining the workforce right now are adequately prepared for the impacts of AI
  • Nearly half of all business leaders (44%) think AI and other emerging technologies will have a moderate or fundamental change on their entire business model over the next five years
  • Between 2022 and 2023, there has been a 10% increase in businesses saying they want graduates to have digital skills (51% in 2022, 61% in 2023)
  • Half (50%) of all current students think their current and future jobs could be under threat from AI in the medium term

The new research is being launched today at a major parliamentary event to unveil The Kingston Approach – Kingston University’s radical new skills blueprint. It is the latest phase of the University’s sector leading Future Skills campaign, which has been highlighting the economic imperative of skills for innovation since its creation in 2021.

Backed by politicians, government policymakers and leading businesses, which this year include the IP Group, Cisco and Salutem Healthcare, the campaign seeks to drive a thriving national economy by preparing students for careers in a rapidly evolving workplace.

The launch of The Kingston Approach coincides with the roll out of a new model of education across the University this autumn. This has seen all new undergraduates become the first to benefit from Future Skills modules embedded in their course programmes to equip them with the skills needed for career success.

The University has identified nine attributes it will instill in its future graduates – creative problem solving, digital competency, being enterprising, having a questioning mindset, adaptability, empathy, collaboration, resilience and self-awareness. It aims to ensure all students can demonstrate the full set of attributes in a variety of contexts by the time they graduate, to boost their employability and ability to make a meaningful contribution in their workplaces and wider society.

Professor Steven Spier, Kingston University’s Vice-Chancellor, said:

“Artificial intelligence has made more urgent the already significant challenge of ensuring students have the skills to succeed in the modern workplace. Young people being educated today will go on to do jobs that don’t yet exist, in sectors that we can barely imagine, using tools entirely alien in the current business environment.

“It is no longer simply enough for universities to offer narrow, subject-based knowledge to students in preparation for their future careers. Instead, we need to equip our graduates with the skills to navigate a turbulent world that will continue to be disrupted. There is additionally a real need to look at AI from a human-centric perspective, for there will be a premium on human skills that cannot be easily replicated, such as creativity and critical thinking.”

To prepare young people for an AI-first world, Kingston University is calling for an overhaul of the national curriculum, so it includes and emphasises teaching of the graduate attributes that are central to its Future Skills programme. The University is also proposing a new framework for the wider higher education sector to embed this  model of teaching. or other similar initiatives.

In addition, it is urging the Department for Education to hand over the remit for higher education teaching and regulation to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the Department for Business and Trade to give universities greater opportunities to innovate.

Anthony York, Group People Director at IP Group, said:   

“The ability to inquire, critically analyse and approach complex problems with a curious mindset remains a human strength. As we prepare for a future where AI will be more prevalent in the workplace, fostering the capability to pose insightful questions becomes paramount. This skill not only complements the capabilities of AI, but also ensures graduates contribute meaningfully by driving innovation, problem solving and strategic thinking. Embedding these Future Skills and competencies at an early stage is key as it allows workforce entrants to effectively use their academic knowledge during their early career and also equips them with the skills to remain relevant and effective in the long term.”

Elizabeth Barr, Head of the Cisco Networking Academy UK and Ireland, said:

“Industry-aligned skills are paramount for graduates embarking on their careers and, with a 68% increase in jobs at the top 100 start-ups and high-growth companies since the pandemic, technical skills are becoming increasingly important. Making sure graduates possess the in-demand skills employers are looking for ensures they can stand out from the crowd, in turn boosting their career prospects and giving both businesses and graduates the tools they need to succeed.”

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