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Minister Troy and Minister Collins welcome report on future skills needs for the use of AI in Ireland

Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD, and Minister for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins TD, today welcomed the publication from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) on the skills needed for Ireland to fully benefit from the opportunities presented by Artificial Intelligence.

The report, entitled AI Skills: A Preliminary Assessment of the Skills Needed for the Deployment, Management and Regulation of Artificial Intelligence highlights the need for everyone, regardless of whether they work in tech or not, will need some level of knowledge and understanding of AI. 

Commenting on the launch of the report, Minister Troy said:

“Artificial Intelligence is already part of our lives whether we know it or not – it helps us choose the songs we listen to or movies to watch, book flights, order taxis, detect fraudulent banking transactions and so much more. As AI has so many broad applications across different sectors, the opportunity to increase economic productivity and change society for the better is there for the taking.

“The report today highlights the huge potential that AI presents and forecasts the future skills needs to seize these opportunities. But if we are to see the benefits we must be prepared. Government is already working with our counterparts in Europe to develop an effective regulatory framework that will ensure the ethical use of AI, championing a person- centred, trustworthy approach to AI in its deployment and application. Further action is needed now across all realms of society to ensure we have the know-how to use AI effectively and fairly to the benefit and good of us all.”

The report finds that AI is not likely to bring about a net loss of jobs, but it will replace certain tasks within many jobs over time. Thus, there is a need for both organisations and individuals to identify where AI will impact their job or their sector and prepare by seeking out the necessary education and training.

Minister Troy continued,

“Key to this is the implementation of the report’s recommendations. If we are to see the benefits of AI, both firms and individuals must have the skills to make this happen.  Digital skills are the foundation, and lifelong learning is essential for everyone as technologies continue to improve. I want to ensure that oganisations, public and private, are supported in seizing these opportunities. Last week we announced a suite of financial and advisory supports, the Grow Digital Fund,  to help businesses go digital. There are great benefits to be had by embracing digital technologies, and those who prepare now will benefit the most.”

Minister Collins added:

“As Minister for Skills, I am delighted to welcome this report which will inform and assist the work of Government, and of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, in driving forward our ambitious skills agenda.

Ireland’s best asset has always been its people. New technologies are reshaping how Irish people live, work and learn. This report assists us in advancing Harnessing Digital, the recently published whole-of-Government digital framework, a plan which we know has skills right at its centre. As Ireland seeks to be an international leader in the digital economy, deepening and accelerating comprehensive and sophisticated digital adoption across industry and enterprise is a critical focus. This includes AI.

AI skills are not just for AI experts.  Everyone will need some knowledge of AI and its implications. While AI developers and researchers will need expert-level skills, it is also the case that anyone working in an organisation that deploys AI systems will need to understand enough about AI and its implications to work effectively with those systems or alongside AI experts.”

Tony Donohoe, Chair of the EGFSN, said:

“This report responds to the National AI Strategy, AI Here for Good.  It provides an introduction and framework to the skills-related issues and challenges relevant to the adoption of AI in Ireland.  The study takes a broad approach to AI-related skills and does not limit itself to the high-level, technical skills needed by developers and experts, but encompasses the skills needed for the deployment, management and regulation of AI.”

The study focussed on four cohorts or groups, identifying skills needs not only for AI developers and experts, but also for public sector employees, for teachers and educators, and for the general public.  Everyone should make a start by ensuring that they have the digital skills they need and then build a relevant knowledge of AI on that foundation.

ENDS 

Find the full report “AI Skills: A Preliminary Assessment of the Skills Needed for the Deployment, Management and Regulation of Artificial Intelligence” at skillsireland.ie/all-publications/2022/ai-skills-report.html

The main findings from the report are:

  1. Artificial Intelligence is described as a general-purpose technology and so will have impacts across a broad range of sectors in the economy. Net job losses are not expected as a result of the adoption of AI, but many jobs will change as certain tasks are taken over by AI. AI has the potential to bring substantial productivity increases. A broad range of skills is needed to ensure that this is realised in practice.
  2. AI Skills should not be seen as only relevant to AI developers and experts. Everyone will need some knowledge and understanding of AI and its implications. For example, public sector employees may need to procure or regulate AI systems. Members of the general public need to know how to interact confidently with AI systems online. Teachers and educators will need to be prepared to impart the necessary knowledge so that everyone else will be well prepared.
  3. Digital skills are the foundation of a knowledge of AI.  Everyone is encouraged to participate in lifelong learning to ensure that they are ready for, and benefit from, technological change. Organisations, both public and private sector, should identify where AI will be relevant for them and ensure that their staff receive the training they need.

The report makes ten specific recommendations, including some relating to teachers’ CPD, the provision of micro-credentials and the training of public servants. A set of broader recommendations is also identified, including actions already being taken elsewhere, but which are essential as an underpinning for AI skills.

  1. Ensure that Computer Science teachers’ CPD evolves with AI developments. (DoE) 
  2. Include digital literacy in the continuum of teacher training (initial teacher education, induction and CPD) so that all new teachers have sufficient ICT and AI knowledge to teach these topics at primary and post primary levels. (DoE, HEIs)
  3. Examine the Teaching Council definition of Computer Science teacher qualifications to ensure it has suitable breadth to include the variety of relevant and appropriate recognised qualifications, including industry certifications, necessary for teaching about AI. (DoE, Teaching Council)
  4. Support the development of new Apprenticeships in AI (National Apprenticeship Office, HEIs, ETBs, Industry)
  5. Make AI-related micro-credentials – at HE and FET levels – available broadly to both learners and workers across the economy. (HEIs, SOLAS, ETBs, QQI)
  6. Ensure the review of curricula at primary, junior and senior cycle includes consideration of AI, especially in STEM subjects. Aim to ensure that the review of Computer Science (including AI) curricula keeps pace with technological change. (DoE, PDST, NCCA)
  7. Explore the use of AI to support teaching, learning and assessment – for example, blended / flipped learning and personalising feedback delivery in the way done by Khan Academy. (DoE, Schools)
  8. Promote a free online AI course for citizens. (for example: the Elements of AI.[1]) Underpin this with similar online courses on basic digital skills. Link the promotion of this with digital literacy courses provided by FET and HE sectors.  (SOLAS eCollege)
  9. Target international AI talent in a pro-active manner through the Tech/Life Ireland programme. (IDA, Enterprise Ireland, DETE)
  10. Public servants who may interact with AI as regulators, legislators, users or procurers should seek out a relevant AI course or module through their employer. One or more such courses should be made available and publicised broadly to public servants. (Public Bodies, DPER)

About the EGFSN

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) advises the Irish Government on the current and future skills needs of the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth. It has a central role in ensuring that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met.

The Enterprise Strategy, Competitiveness and Evaluations Division within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provides the EGFSN with research and analysis support.

Contact Expert Group on Future Skills Needs at info@egfsn.ie

Contact Press Office, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment at press.office@enterprise.gov.ie

Contact Press Office, Department of Education and Skills at press@education.gov.ie 

[1]  A free online introduction to artificial intelligence for non-experts (elementsofai.com/ie)