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Boosting skills is key to harnessing the potential of AI

PARIS: Despite increasing concerns about the ethical risks posed by rapidly developing AI applications, employers are paying little attention to the issue in recruiting, an OECD study said Monday. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development searched online job offers for AI posts in 14 countries. It found that while the percentage including keywords relating to ethics had increased sharply in the past four years, it still remained very low at an average of 0.4 percent in 2022.

“Results indicate that in the majority of countries, less than 1 percent of all vacancies mentioned keywords associated with AI ethics,” the OECD said in its annual job skills report. In the United States in 2019 only 0.1 percent of all online job postings for AI professionals mentioned any keyword associated with ethics in AI. These were for vacancies requiring prospective workers to possess skills related to AI development and use, but the figure had risen to 0.5 percent in 2022. New Zealand had the highest result of 1.6 percent in 2022.

“This suggests that despite strong commitments on the part of countries and stated intentions on the part of AI development firms, ethics in AI is not yet prioritized in hiring decisions,” said the report. “These considerations should be prioritized.” The release of ChatGPT and other generative AI systems has captivated the public and offered a glimpse into the technology’s potential. These new systems are capable of quickly producing text, images and audio from simple commands in everyday language. But they have also prompted concerns around issues ranging from job losses to cyberattacks and the control that humans actually have over the systems.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted political and tech leaders at the inaugural global AI safety summit last week. Ahead of the meeting, the G7 powers agreed on a non-binding “code of conduct” for companies developing the most advanced AI systems. But governments appear to be playing catch-up in terms of regulating the rapidly-developing technology. Countries should significantly scale-up efforts to strengthen initial education systems and provide improved upskilling and reskilling opportunities for lifelong learning, to ensure skills available respond more effectively to the needs in the labor market.

This is also essential to ensure societies can harness the full potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics and successfully transition to a net-zero economy, according to the OECD’s Skills Outlook 2023. Investments in skills are critical to building a resilient green and digital transition. However, the speed of environmental and digital transformations is outpacing the rate of change in education and skills policies and their capacity to respond to emerging trends and needs in society and labor markets. As new job profiles and skills requirements emerge, on average across OECD countries only around four in ten adults participate in formal or non-formal learning for job related reasons.

This hampers the ability of workers to upskill and reskill, limiting their opportunities to reallocate from sectors and occupations and their ability to strengthen the skills they will need to work alongside new technologies to make the most of potential productivity gains.r“Skills play an essential role in building strong, fair, and sustainable economies and societies, but the skills needs of our economies and societies are evolving,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said. “To ensure everyone can participate in and benefit from economic development and growth and in particular the opportunities created by the green and digital transformations, policymakers must better aligning education and skills training with the skills needed in the labour market.

This is essential to help workers navigate the significant impacts of these transformations on labor markets.” Ensuring adequate upskilling and reskilling, as well as providing assistance for populations negatively affected by climate change, is critical to ensure continued support of action to halt environmental degradation. Education systems should redouble their efforts to build the environmental sustainability competences of young people, equipping them with both the skill and the will to support the achievement of green objectives.

Only around one in three young people in OECD countries combine foundational levels of scientific literacy with the attitudes and behaviours that enable them to be thoughtful consumers and future workers in the green economy. Developments in generative artificial intelligence and robotics will require individuals to develop skills to work alongside AI systems and not just existing technologies. This will pose a second challenge for education and training systems.

Individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are also less likely to gain proficiency in a range of skills during formal education, including to develop attitudes and dispositions that can support the twin digital and green transition and reduce their vulnerability to environmental and technological changes. Policy action is needed to identify vulnerability due to a lack of proficiency in skills in order to improve both equality of opportunity and overall well-being. –Agencies

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