Prepare Your IT Department for an AI Skills Gap
Our universities and colleges have had artificial intelligence for some time now. Remember the chatbots providing the 24/7 support to the IT help desk to answer any questions you might have? Those would be the AIs at work. Many colleges use these AI systems to answer routine student questions.
Colleges typically take a long time to adopt a new school of thought, and they’ve adapted to using AI very quickly.
Yet, in higher education, IT leaders are soon to encounter a gap in what’s possible in AI and who can execute it—if they haven’t already.
In the middle of 2018, Forbes ran an article called, “The AI Skills Crisis and How to Close the Gap.” If they thought we had a crisis two and a half years ago, what are we facing now, being that technology travels at the speed of light?
According to LinkedIn’s “2020 Emerging Job Report,” AI- and data science-related jobs are expanding at an alarming rate. AI specialists have a 74% annual growth rate. LinkedIn predicts, “Artificial intelligence will require the entire workforce to learn new skills, whether it’s to keep up to date with an existing role or to pursue a new career as a result of automation.”
One strategy to closing the gap is to create opportunities for staff to learn from their peers with an “early and often” mentality. This is especially vital in campuses, where artificial intelligence applications are so very diverse from one another. Those using AI or partnering with vendors providing AI resources might include cybersecurity specialists, IT networks, faculty in the academic departments, researchers, and admissions staff. It would be unfortunate for these people to keep working individually and miss out entirely on the blessing of collaboration.
Closing the skills gap means beginning now to get your team ready for the jobs you’ll be doing tomorrow. Exposing them to more advanced AI applications and helping them build a broader understanding of that technology can help them build that foundation to build that expertise on!
Set a Foundation and Build from There
I suggest designating an IT lead for AI. Choose one person whose sole responsibility is to see the big picture of what’s going on with AI on the campus. They should be working on bringing the stakeholders together, helping the IT leaders be alert to potential challenges and opportunities, and serve as a hub of information and resources as AI applications continue to expand.
Lastly, several institutions are now offering certifications and micro-credentials. Consider offering formal training through academic programs, events, and conferences on your campus. Then, when your staff attends these programs, they can share what they learn with the other staff (peer-to-peer training).
Preparing your AI department for an AI skills gap will undoubtedly take time, as will developing a pipeline of future professionals. The journey will be complicated and challenging for us to foresee. Set your IT team members up for success by helping them get as ready as possible.