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As AI expands, big tech to upskill, reskill 100M people

Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft and others will work to train 100 million people in digital skills by 2032. Details are lacking, however, including how this effort will be deployed.

With AI set to disrupt millions of jobs, nine major tech companies including Cisco, Google, IBM and Microsoft have united to form a job training consortium. Their mission: to reskill and upskill millions at risk in the IT workforce. However, this plan also raises many questions about how it will work, who it will benefit and how much of it is new, rather than a detailing of existing educational efforts.

Members of the consortium plan to collectively provide digital skills training to nearly 100 million workers globally between now and 2032. The sheer scale of the upskilling effort is another sign that AI will be disruptive for many people, who will be in a race to keep up with a rapidly evolving technology.

Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, said the training goals are high. "But how successful will they be at figuring out which jobs will have changing requirements, and what those requirements will be?" he added. "And who will be able to access the training they provide, and will it work successfully to train people who otherwise might lack these skills."

Other tech providers participating in the consortium include Intel, Accenture and SAP, as well as two HR-specific companies -- Indeed, which operates a career site, and Eightfold AI, a talent intelligence technology provider.

AI and the skills gap

The consortium was announced in Leuven, Belgium, near Brussels. Placing it near the de facto capital of the EU was partly a defensive move, said Emily Rose McRae, a Gartner analyst.

When it comes to AI, "the EU, in general, is significantly more likely to take action on concerns related to the workforce than the United States," McRae said. "They have already shown themselves to be more inclined to try to regulate AI in general."

McRae said the consortium needs to clarify how closely the companies will work together in its reskilling and upskilling efforts and how coordinated it will be.

Some of the efforts are already in place. The details of the plan are currently more a series of separate efforts that, on the face of it, seem less of a coordinated effort. Participating companies set separate goals, such as Cisco's aim to train 25 million people with cybersecurity and digital skills by 2032, while SAP plans to upskill 2 million people worldwide by 2025, according to a press release. Others, like Google, already have AI training in place, she noted.

McRae said the plan, so far, is not so much about collaborating as it is about detailing what the tech companies are doing to upskill and reskill the workforce.

Ultimately, McRae said, she sees this agreement as a response to a strong need for skills for the industry and customers. If a business wanted to build a generative AI application today, "it would be phenomenally expensive, and the timelines would be long," she said.

Dan Hopkins, vice president of global public sector and applied AI at Eightfold AI, said in an email that the consortium's goal is to assess the potential effect of AI on information and communications technology jobs. "This requires a thorough analysis of skills per role, how these skills are evolving in context, and a contextual understanding of emergent skill entanglement," he said.

The consortium will use Eightfold's Talent Intelligence platform, which uses AI "to dynamically analyze the rapidly changing needs of all jobs and provide actionable insights into what skills are evolving, atrophying and emerging," Hopkins said.

Patrick Thibodeau is an editor at large for TechTarget Editorial who covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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