Not keeping up: only one in ten UK workers have in-demand AI skills

Unless you really haven’t been paying attention, AI — and specifically generative AI — is one of the hottest topics this year.

In fact, recent data from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) has found that public awareness of AI has increased over the past year, with 72% of adults now able to give at least a partial explanation of what the term means.

Last year, that figure was 56%, according to 2022’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’s Public Attitudes to Data and AI Tracker Survey (PADAI).

AI is making its way into the world of work too. Day to day, 5% of UK adults say they’re using AI “a lot”, with 45% using it “a little”. The ONS’ Business and Insights Conditions Survey (BICS) found that 16% of businesses are currently using at least one AI application, most commonly for improving cybersecurity (35%), and creating efficiencies (35%).

Reports are also proliferating about robots coming for workers’ jobs and roles being displaced by technology, with Goldman Sachs economists estimating that roughly two-thirds of US occupations are exposed to some degree of automation by AI.

The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report has also found that 23% of global jobs will change over the next five years. Across 45 economies, 69 million new jobs are expected to be created — but 83 million will be eliminated, it says, equating to a decrease of 2% of current employment.

Skills-based hiring

Given the outlook, it is no surprise if workers are nervous. But according to a recent digital skills survey from Salesforce, only one in ten workers actually have AI skills, a crucial, and in-demand digital capability.

While it isn’t a surprise that the industry indexing the highest for AI skills is the technology sector, even here, only 27% use these skills within their roles. In the face of this skills gap, the report says that the path forward is through upskilling, with 97% of global workers saying businesses should prioritise AI skills in their employee development strategy.

The survey also found that 98% of global workers rate skills over educational qualifications or career background.

This reflects a wider trend where skills-based hiring is on the rise: a report from TestGorilla found that 76% of employers use some skills-based hiring to find new talent, and 55% use role-specific skills tests.

Salesforce’s report also highlighted that 98% believe prioritising workers’ actual competencies over their degrees provides business benefits. After those much-prioritised AI skills, people leaders want employees with data security skills (60%) and programming skills (57%).

Soft skills matter too with creative imaginative skills (56%), customer relationship skills (53%), and leadership skills (51%) ranking highest.

Kirstie McDermott
Kirstie McDermott

Kirstie McDermott is a Senior Content Manager at our job board partner, Jobbio. Based in Dublin, she has been a writer and editor across print and digital platforms for over 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.