Employers hand measuring potential skills of employees standing in line with a ruler
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Recent research from Britain confirms what many people in enterprises already know, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to profoundly change the workplace. However, unlike previous research, the findings contained in the AI in the UK: Ready, willing and able? report published by the House of Lords Select Committee on artificial intelligence offers lawmakers in Britain a picture of the future digital workplace.

This workplace will be one where AI enhances and creates many new jobs, but also one where retraining is not just an occasional event, but something that is ongoing and continuous as AI changes the way we work.

AI is Already Deeply Embedded

The report has a very specific focus through. It outlines what the authors believe are the opportunities for the United Kingdom in an AI-driven world and what the UK government needs to do to turn the workplace change to the advantage of its citizens. It is, in fact, a thought provoking and enlightened report that treats AI not as a problem to be overcome, but as a technology that future-looking workers should embrace and can use to their own advantage. “It [AI] is a tool which is already deeply embedded in our lives. The prejudices of the past must not be unwittingly built into automated systems, and such systems must be carefully designed from the beginning. Access to large quantities of data is one of the factors fueling the current AI boom,” the report reads.

It also warns that the builders of AI driven applications need to take heed to make sure their machines are accessible to everyone. The report warns, “Companies and organizations need to improve the intelligibility of their AI systems. Without this, regulators may need to step in and prohibit the use of opaque technology in significant and sensitive areas of life and society.”

Leaving aside the warnings, the drive here is to lay the foundation for a workplace that is constantly training and constantly changing. The report adds that while AI may accelerate the digital disruption in the jobs market, many jobs will be enhanced by AI, many will disappear and many new, as yet unknown jobs, will be created. So what kind of people and training should enterprises be thinking about?

Related Article: Why the Benefits of Artificial Intelligence Outweigh the Risks

AI Builders Come From Everywhere

Keith Strier is AI leader for London, UK-based, Ernst & Young. He points out that AI is not a single construct, but a spectrum of knowledge domains, tools and methods, and so the AI talent market reflects this diversity. “There are more traditional and technical AI practitioners, such as data scientists who typically have a graduate degree in fields like machine learning. And there are newer AI disciplines, such as conversational AI designer, which could be someone with a degree in English or Web Design, or both, or neither,” he said

Regardless of the AI skill, people want the opportunity to apply themselves and to work on projects in their area of specialty, as well as the opportunity to explore cutting edge domains that require new skills. AI talent who seek employment in the private sector, versus academia, probably do so to benefit from the opportunity to work with experts in unrelated fields. Diversity of projects is important because the field keeps evolving and staying fresh means staying challenged with solving new kinds of business problems.

Finally, some AI talent will want the opportunity to go beyond science and math, to do more than build and train data models, they will seek to become managers and leaders in their own right, to shape the future applications of AI.

AI Salaries and Benefits Expectations

It’s widely known that there is a global arms race for AI talent, but again, the salary and benefits available, map to the specific AI skill, level of experience and the context of work. A data scientist may take lower pay to work in a prestigious lab where they are doing bleeding edge AI research, or take mostly equity in an AI start up.

Alternatively, a conversational AI designer who worked for a major bank for two years (considered “seasoned” by Chabot standards, Strier said) may only work in a major tech company if paid cash, stock and benefits well above market rates for design professionals.

While starting pay for tier one school data science graduate students can hit the mid six-figures, it is more likely that graduates are enjoying more of a premium to their peers, but not always x2 or x3 standard packages, which is reserved for top students in very specific fields where demand exceeds supply (think computer vision with a focus on autonomous system navigation).

Related Article: 8 Examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Workplace

Demand For ‘Cross-Over’ Skills Candidates

Brad Westveld is the co-founder and partner of the Solon, Ohio-based ON Partners, which specializes in the recruitment of c-level opportunities for public and emerging high growth companies. He said that past employment markets seemed to like to throw candidates into buckets — hardware, software, systems, manufacturing. You were either one or the other. “Given that AI is so broad right now and can mean M2M or robotics or voice recognition or AR/VR or automation, searching for candidates is really about finding parallels or crossover skills in the market that are relevant,” he said.

He cites the example of a robot that will help in-store shoppers. For that, he said, you will need someone with hardware, software, UX, and manufacturing experience how to make many of these robots, at scale. A candidate target list might include talent in industrial manufacturing, or semiconductor equipment, or surgical equipment or consumer electronics, all of which have pieces of hardware, software, UI and volume production.

On the surface, these markets have never really cross-pollinated before. In the world of AI, the distinguish is not relevant.  As a result, he thinks that the top jobs in AI will be:

  • Vice president of voice recognition as almost all AI will include a voice interface.
  • Vice president industrial design, who will decide what these new products look like, where the buttons will be, etc.
  • Vice president of reliability who will ensure that these complex systems work without fail.
  • Vice president of UX who will be responsible for designing an interface that consumers engage with.
  • Vice president of customer service who will work with people that use, fix, service the equipment.
  • Vice president software

For Akiva Leyton marketing manager of the Los Angeles-based digital marketing agency Falcon Marketing, the key will be to bring both software and hardware together. “I think the most important skills necessary to transform a digital workplace will be basic understanding of computer hardware and software. A basic understanding of these very simple aspects of the digital world can prove to be priceless in any digital workplace. With the fundamentals of hardware and software, one can build a powerful knowledge base of any digital industry, without exception,” he said. “If you don't understand the basics, you will never be able to grasp the more advanced concepts.