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No One Wants to Be the Blockbuster Video of the AI Era

Female worker wearing hardhat in an industrial setting

Concern about automation and its impact on jobs is nothing new, notes a 2018 Allegis Group white paper. In 1928, a New York Times headline declared, the “March of the machine makes idle hands.” That article referenced the reduction in agricultural workers due to new farm machines.

For companies considering their talent needs, the lesson of past innovation should loom large. The development of the internet showed how new technologies could take away jobs and create new ones. It showed how the companies that ignore change find it difficult to catch up. No business wants to be the Blockbuster Video of the AI era.

Mammoth digital companies, including IBM, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon, Baidu, Apple and Facebook, are all investing in AI. A 2016 report by analyst group IDC predicts revenues from cognitive systems and AI technologies will jump from $8 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020.

As the jobs that support AI evolve, it’s crucial for companies to be prepared to secure new skills. A proactive approach to the AI-driven landscape of work can be a key ingredient to a talent advantage in the future.

Changing demand for skills

Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report recognizes a changing demand for skills among organizations due to the growing footprint of AI technology. The future will increase the value of workers with a strong learning ability and strength in human interaction.

Talent industry analyst Josh Bersin says AI is positioned to change how work is done and create new jobs. “What we concluded is that what AI is definitely doing is not eliminating jobs; it is eliminating tasks of jobs, and creating new jobs, and the new jobs that are being created are more human jobs.”

That aligns with what Casey Sivier, strategic account executive for Aerotek, is seeing in the automotive industry. “In the past, welding was all done by hand. Now, it may be done by robots, but they still require expert programming, oversight and support to make sure the work is being done correctly.”

Many positions will require more of a transition than an entirely different skill set. “For instance, automotive manufacturers and OEMs employ engineers who work on in-dash radio and stereo systems,” Sivier explains. “Now they might refocus their efforts on autonomy and connectivity, helping cars talk to each other.”

To a large degree, Sivier says, the entire transportation industry is evolving into a “mobility industry” instead. “Where the focus traditionally has been on the operator, the process is now streamlined to apply the technology directly to the end goal — moving people and products.”

AI is powering innovation across a number of products and industries to improve safety and achieve cost savings, such as drone delivery of consumer products, ride-hailing and ride-sharing services and autonomous cars and trucks. “At a cab company, imagine one worker sitting in a ‘war room’ overseeing a fleet of autonomous cars instead of having an individual driver,” Sivier says.

More and more, he notes, AI and technology are driving the speed of things to come. “After more than 100 years, cars still greatly resemble the models originally invented, with four wheels and a steering wheel,” says Sivier. “But tech iterates much more quickly and expectations have grown too, so consumers expect their devices to not just operate but to know them and anticipate their needs.”

As AI and other innovations continue to drive change in manufacturing and many other industries, it’s clear that employers will need to be strategic about the way they deploy both tech and talent to achieve the best results.

Want to learn more about the impact of AI? Contact Aerotek now.