Fit for AI? Companies underestimate the need for further training

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will change the way we work. Most companies expect that the use of AI will place new demands on employees - and want to qualify skilled workers and managers accordingly. Above all, technical skills in dealing with AI systems are not yet sufficiently available in companies. These are the results of a recent online survey of companies conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the University of Augsburg for Plattform Lernende Systeme. The authors of the study warn against underestimating the need for further training of the low-skilled. Employees across all job profiles need to be empowered to work with AI systems. Besides technical skills, it is also about social skills.

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AI-based software and self-learning machines can relieve people in material and production work of monotonous and repetitive tasks, such as processing forms or monitoring technical processes. For their use to succeed, employees must be qualified to handle the technology and changed work processes. AI systems could optimally complement the skills of humans, but never fully replace them or a human sense of responsibility, according to the current study "AI competence development in material and production work" by Plattform Lernende Systeme. Fifty company representatives from various sectors were asked which competences they consider necessary for the successful introduction of AI and how employees can be trained accordingly.

The majority of the companies surveyed, more than half of which already use AI applications, expect that the activities of employees will change through the use of AI and that there will be a considerable need for further training as a result. About half suspect that new requirements will be added; only about one-fifth expect tasks to be eliminated. "I am not worried that we will run out of work due to the use of AI. However, we will tend to work in a more flexible and mobile way," emphasises Wilhelm Bauer, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and co-head of the Future of Work and Human-Machine Interaction Working Group of Plattform Lernende Systeme. "Independent, problem-finding and problem-solving behaviour will gain in importance. To the same extent, those competences that are required for the conscientious performance of uniform routine tasks will recede into the background."

Companies focus on further training for professional and managerial staff

Many of the companies surveyed see the benefits of AI technologies in the optimisation of processes and structures; they expect productivity increases and greater flexibility. The unclear economic viability and the necessary qualification of employees, on the other hand, inhibit the introduction of AI in the opinion of many companies. More than a third of the companies surveyed state that their employees do not yet have the necessary skills to work with AI-based systems. In addition to technical competence and domain knowledge, AI, methodological and digital competence were named here above all; the respondents see qualification gaps particularly among specialists and managers. Consequently, the majority of the in-house training programmes offered by the companies surveyed are predominantly aimed at qualified decision-makers and technicians. These are preferably conducted as on-the-job training or in-house seminars.

Elisabeth André

University of Augsburg

Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we work across all job profiles - for managers as well as for professional and technical workers. Not all employees have to become AI experts in order to work with the new systems in the future. But a basic understanding of the technology and increased social and communicative skills are necessary in all areas of activity. This need for further training, even among the low-skilled, was often not seen by the companies surveyed," says Elisabeth André, professor of computer science at the University of Augsburg and co-leader of the Future of Work and Human-Machine Interaction working group.

For low-skilled and temporary workers, the companies surveyed hardly offer any further training. Appropriate qualification offers must also be created for this group of employees, for example to ensure the reliability of business processes. Only a few companies also consider social and communicative competences, initiative, creativity or problem-solving skills to be necessary for working with AI systems. The authors of the study, on the other hand, consider these skills to be an important building block for managing the transformation process in the company.

About the project report

The online survey of company experts on AI competence development in material and production work (in German) was conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the University of Augsburg on behalf of the Future of Work and Human-Machine Interaction working group of Plattform Lernende Systeme from 1 May to 15 July 2021. The empirical findings of the survey were commented on by a panel of experts during a public webtalk of Plattform Lernende Systeme in autumn 2021 and underpin the white paper Competence Development for AI, which was published in September 2021.

Further information:

Linda Treugut / Birgit Obermeier
Press and Public Relations

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