Workers underprepared as AI reaches turning point

Only one in 20 Australian businesses are ready to deploy and leverage AI despite research suggesting almost all jobs will be affected, a report says.

The crucial lack of understanding about generative artificial intelligence comes as workers already embracing such tools save about 5.3 hours a week in tackling mundane tasks, the fourth RMIT Online Skills Report says.

“Generative AI is unlike any technology introduced in the past,” RMIT Online workforce solutions director Kade Brown told AAP.

“It democratises the intelligence to pretty much anybody in the working economy.”

By analysing large quantities of unstructured data and being accessible without technical skills, such as coding languages, it would have a transformational impact across entire workforces in almost all sectors, he said.

While hype had been building since late 2022 when ChatGPT launched, 2024 was a turning point as impressive tailored applications and technologies hit the market, Mr Brown said.

Generative AI integration in Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Excel were two examples of where workers and a few good written prompts could produce the results that previously required a complex skillset.

Businesses needed to be focused on upskilling employees to use AI effectively, safely and responsibly, Mr Brown said.

“There’s a gap between how much businesses are expecting to see the impact of AI versus how reluctant employees are to use it,” he said.

“That’s a training gap or a skill gap.”

The white paper, released on Tuesday and co-authored by Deloitte Access Economics, finds five per cent of 400 Australian businesses surveyed were fully prepared to deploy and leverage AI within their operations.

About a third of 1000 workers surveyed had never used Generative AI in their role because they don’t believe it was relevant

But research suggests 86 per cent of all occupations will be affected, the report said.

“Generative AI capitalises on aspects where traditional learning and development falls short,” Deloitte Access Economics partner John O’Mahony said.

“Therefore, it will play a critical role in Australia’s skills transition.”

The report follows another by communications platform Slack in February showing Australia’s desk workers are above the global average in adopting AI but bosses were not guiding them on how it should be used.

The RMIT Online report also found about 30 per cent of businesses expected to hire fewer staff in 2024 and the same amount forecast redundancies.

Those businesses expected to lay off about a sixth of the workforce.


Luke Costin
(Australian Associated Press)


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