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Turbulence and AI-Driven Disruptions in Global Job Markets

Donald Norris and Linda Baer

More data points are appearing every week in the prediction of turbulence and transformation in the global workforce over the next five years.

World Economy Survey of the Global Workforce in 2027

The World Economic Forum published a report on Sunday based on a survey of more than 800 companies. It predicts that huge disruptions will rock the job market based on a combination of the shift to renewable energy, inflation, slowing growth, and new technologies – such as AI.

While employers expect to create 69 million new jobs by 2027 – roughly 10% growth – they also expect to eliminate 83 million positions – mostly through automation and AI. This results in a net loss of 14 million jobs, roughly 2% of the current total.

The rush to deploy AI serves as both a positive and negative force. Companies will need new workers to help them manage and implement AI. Employment of data analysts and scientists, machine learning experts, and cybersecurity experts is forecast to grow 30% on average by 2027. On the other hand, many white professional and administrative jobs will be eliminated or transformed by the widespread use of AI-based personal productivity tools.

Automation has proceeded slower than expected in this new decade, revising projections downward. But the furor and excitement over ChatGPT and Generative AI suggest the pace of change is picking up. While 34% of all business-related tasks are currently performed by machines, the survey predicts that 42% will be automated by 2027.

The Message for Higher Education Leaders: Get on Board or Be Left Behind

These conditions are all part of the disruptions caused by the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – first computation and now artificial intelligence. The message for higher education leaders is clear: employers will move decisively to develop, deploy, and leverage these tools. This will dramatically create immediate needs for retraining and upskilling. Goldman Sachs predicts 300 million jobs could be affected by this latest wave of AI. These AI-reshaped jobs will both change the skill requirements for beginning employment and require continuous learning over careers spanning 60 years or more. These changes are dramatically transforming the dynamics of the global knowledge, work, and learning ecosystem. And reshaping the global market for talent. If American higher education leaders do not get their institutions and the education and learning industry on board with these changes, existing competitors or new workforce marketplace facilitators surely will.

A good place to start: Follow the conversations at The Growth Summit to see the global energy behind rethinking globalization to reduce inequality and inflation, spark the transition to green energy, grow the education and agriculture industries, and invest in technology. See how these efforts can provide opportunities through lifelong learning and investing in the new skills, professions, and careers that will be made possible by AI, new partnerships and collaborations, and collective action. A premium is being placed on the development of cognitive, analytical, creativity, leadership, and social influence skills – especially those that emphasize the human quality.

Robot-Proof Higher Education

What does this mean? According to Joseph Aoun in ROBOT-PROOF Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, “education must calibrate learners with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or create something valuable to society.”

As was the case for other major changes in society and the economy, education adapted to the needs of economic development, including free public education in the 19th century to raise Americans out of illiteracy, building new skills for the industrial age, then advancing the technological skills and advanced knowledge needed to move the workforce forward. Today, technology is raising the educational bar for the digital age. It builds on humanity’s unique talent for creativity. (Aoun, 47-48.)

Aoun lays out the framework for a new discipline, humanics, which builds on our innate strengths and prepares students to compete in a labor market in which smart machines work alongside human professionals. “ The new literacies will include data literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy. Lifelong learning opportunities will support their ability to adapt to change. Using the new literacies of humanics, education can equip students for living and working through change.” (Aoun, 2017.)


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