From education to employment

New guidance to help businesses boost skills and unlock opportunities of AI

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  • Businesses to be helped to upskill employees so they can use AI to carry out tasks in the workplace, boosting productivity
  • Draft guidance sets out areas of focus for employers, workers, and training providers, including data protection
  • Announcement comes as the UK government calls on the business community and experts to help shape final guidance 

Businesses throughout the UK will be supported to unleash the enormous potential of AI across their workforce as the UK government publishes new guidance to make sure employees have the skills they need.

The guidance, published today (Thursday 30 November), is intended to help employers boost their employees’ understanding of AI so they can use it safely in their day-to-day role, by setting out the key knowledge, skills and behaviours they should have in order to reap the benefits of AI safely – including how to use artificial intelligence tools effectively such as Large Language Models and the safe and secure management of sensitive data.

Focused on five key areas, the guidance covers everything from using AI to evaluate the performance of projects through to how to build the skills and techniques needed to solve issues as people work with AI when they crop up. Employees will be helped by employers and training providers to develop a deeper understanding of how their organisation works with AI, how they can further incorporate its use, and in turn what tools they need to tackle a particular task. From admin to accounting and a range of other aspects in a worker’s day-to-day role, the guidance will support employees to propose solutions and build a strong knowledge base to go from strength to strength as they work increasingly with AI.

Given the growing use of AI in businesses across the country, this will serve as a vital tool for employers to ensure their workers can harness the huge potential of the technology to fuel both their own development and that of their organisation. By upskilling workers, businesses will also ramp up productivity and ensure their workforce can focus on the tasks which will make the biggest impact. Having a highly skilled workforce will allow businesses to go from strength to strength, fuelling their success and contributing to the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy.

Developed in partnership with the Innovate UK BridgeAI programme and The Alan Turing Institute the guidance marks a first step, with the UK government continuing to work closely with the business community and experts to further develop the guidance and draw concrete actions which can be implemented by businesses across the country – ahead of publishing a final version.

It comes as the Chancellor welcomed Microsoft’s £2.5 billion investment in UK AI over the next 3 years – expanding its next generation AI datacentre infrastructure, which is a vital investment to process, host and store the massive amounts of digital information needed to develop AI models. He will today (Thursday 30 November) visit one of Microsoft’s new ‘next generation datacentre facilities’ under construction in North London – which will create jobs and run fully on renewable energy – joined by Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, and Microsoft UK CEO, Clare Barclay.

Minister for AI Viscount Camrose, said: 

“Making sure workers up and down the country have the skills they need for their jobs with and in AI is a key part of our strategy in making the UK an AI powerhouse and ensuring the skills of our workforce keep pace with this rapidly developing technology.

“This guidance will be vital in helping us realise that ambition, continuing an important conversation with businesses across the UK to make sure the steps they can take are practical, functional, and successful. 

“Having a workforce which is equipped to work alongside AI will drive growth for businesses and allow us to realise the enormous opportunities AI presents in every sector of our economy.”

Each of the five areas identified in the guidance are broken down further into corresponding knowledge and skillsets, such as knowledge of how AI can be used effectively; the ability to carry out a range of tasks; using appropriate behaviour when working with AI; and strong professional values to develop a sound judgment in situations where AI could be used.

Underpinning this new guidance is a breakdown of four distinct ‘personas’, which correspond to the level of AI expertise an individual may need. This will help users – individuals, employees, employers – to quickly identify their skills gaps, and training providers to develop relevant training schemes to address these. 

AI Citizens are defined in the guidance as members of the public who could be customers or employees of an organisation making use of AI. AI Workers are employees whose day-to-day role sits outside of data and AI, but whose jobs are likely to be impacted by the technologies. AI Professionals are also identified as employees with specific responsibilities around data and AI, while AI Leaders are people in senior positions which help to oversee and introduce emerging technologies, such as individuals in board-level roles. These personas will help businesses improve their L&D offer for existing workers, and to identify key AI skills when recruiting. 

To ensure the guidance is useful for organisations across the UK economy, the government is now seeking views from across the UK’s expert community. Stakeholders have the opportunity to comment on the guidance through the Alan Turing Institute until January, who will then host a webinar and Q&A on 7 December. Building on this feedback, in the new year InnovateUK BridgeAI and the Alan Turing Institute will publish updated guidance, an accompanying skills framework and sector-specific case studies. These resources will help businesses understand their AI upskilling needs and training providers to develop training solutions which will enable businesses to unlock the value of AI.

The Government has already invested £290 million in a broad package of AI skills and talent initiatives since 2018, giving people the tools they need to work effectively alongside AI. Last month, a wide-ranging skills package was also unveiled which encompasses postgraduate research centres and scholarships, putting the UK on a strong footing with a high-skilled workforce fit for the digital age.

The AI Skills for Business Competency Framework builds on already established models of professional standards and approaches, such as the government’s Essential Digital Skills Framework, and the Alliance for Data Science Professionals. Its publication today marks a new chapter in identifying the knowledge, skills, and personal qualities that workers across the country need to tap into in order to navigate the practical challenges which AI presents in the workplace. 

Sector Response

Professor Will Drury, Executive Director – Digital and Technologies at Innovate UK said:

“The adoption of AI is critical for our economy – it will help drive growth and competitiveness, unlocking the potential for greater productivity.  

“I welcome this framework and consultation focused on developing employees’ skills in AI; the recognition that AI is part of industry’s future and our workforce’s future is just the start of integrating AI into business at a grass-roots level.

“Innovate UK’s BridgeAI programme concentrates on four key sectors – this piece of work will build on that by engaging with industry across the board.”

Matt Forshaw, Senior Advisor for Skills at The Alan Turing Institute said: 

“Businesses are increasingly interested to learn how AI could enhance their productivity and competitiveness, but they also want to ensure they have the skills and competencies to adopt these technologies safely and ethically.  

“The new framework clarifies routes to workforce upskilling and will support businesses across the country to harness the value of AI. This project is underpinned by strong partnership working and we look forward to seeing the impact of this project on the current and future AI workforce.”  

Suid Adeyanju, CEO of RiverSafe said:

“Upskilling the UK workforce to adapt and embrace AI is a welcome step in the right direction. However, nowhere near enough is being done to prepare companies for the rising tide of AI-enabled cyber threats. This technology has the potential to transform the digital economy, but in the wrong hands could also cause serious harm. Getting businesses and workers cyber-ready to prevent this happening should also be a major priority for the government moving forward.”

Andrew Drylie, Investment Manager, Quadri Ventures said:

“Widespread AI adoption will have a seismic impact on the way businesses operate, so it’s right for the government to stay ahead of the curve by encouraging upskilling at the earliest opportunity. It is also vital that workers are given the opportunity to learn and develop their skillset in such a game-changing technology so they can reap the benefits by mastering digital skills for the future.

Tom Dunning, CEO and founder of Ad Signal, said:

“The race to embrace AI brings with it huge opportunities but also major challenges. Upskilling workforces should form part of a much wider digital strategy to ensure AI is used ethically, responsibly and with consideration for its environmental impact.

It’s already clear that the huge rise in AI use requires an action plan to reduce its carbon impact. However, many companies in key areas like the entertainment industry have little or no roadmap in place. It’s vital that the government recognises this threat early on, so the UK can develop a clear blueprint to reap the benefits of this technology, responsibly.”

The news follows the Chancellor welcoming Microsoft’s £2.5 billion investment into UK AI over the next three years.

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