Upskill to thrive in dynamic environment of emerging technologies

One in four businesses see AI as a 'critical growth area', yet many have experienced difficulties in recruiting staff with the necessary skillsets. Photograph: iStock

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Are we woefully unprepared for the workplace of tomorrow? Many of us are already working in jobs that did not exist when we were in school, but commentators now say the majority of employment positions in 10 years’ time will be completely new. Some employers are doing their best to upskill their staff to prepare for those new roles, as well as to adapt to ongoing changes, but preparing for jobs and needs that don’t yet exist is a challenge, to put it mildly.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and data analytics are at the heart of this transformation. According to Aoife O’Sullivan, head of network development and innovation at Skillnet Ireland, enterprise leaders are acutely aware of the need for talent to adapt and thrive in this dynamic environment of changing needs.

“Digital technologies like AI continue to permeate and transform every aspect of business operations,” she says, “Companies can use AI to gain a competitive advantage, improve customer experience and boost profits. It is vital that businesses develop an AI skills base to generate new job opportunities and new pathways for career progression, as well as boosting economic growth.”

A recent survey of 500 businesses commissioned by Skillnet Ireland revealed that one in four businesses see AI as a “critical growth area”, which requires new skills and ways of leading. Unsurprisingly, more than 50 per cent of SMEs and 31 per cent of larger organisations reported experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff with the necessary skill sets.

Every year Skillnet Ireland provides digital upskilling supports to more than 13,000 people in businesses by delivering cutting-edge programmes and initiatives and supporting SMEs to embrace digitalisation.

“Skillnet Ireland is dedicated to investing in talent development, which is key to ensuring Ireland remains globally competitive across all industries where the use of AI is increasing, from medtech and retail to finance and transport,” says O’Sullivan.

“Skillnet Ireland and its technology networks have developed a wide range of academic programmes in partnership with enterprise in areas such as the internet of things, AI, cloud computing, blockchain and data analytics. These technology-based networks provide upskilling solutions to help businesses to be the best they can be and to maintain Ireland’s position as a leading global technology hub.”

Some of the upskilling programmes offered in the digital space include the National MSc in artificial intelligence, the first AI master’s qualification in Ireland, offered by Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet in partnership with the University of Limerick, Dublin City University and University of Galway. The MSc in Leadership, Innovation and Technology designed by Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet in partnership with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) has also been delivering essential skills to industry for over a decade, while a new Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Analytics, Technology and Innovation from the Technology Ireland Digital Skillnet and TU Dublin was launched recently.

Luke Weaver of PepsiCo Ireland’s people team says the organisation acutely recognises the importance of adapting to the changing technology landscape and providing relevant training to all employees.

“Raising the bar on talent and diversity is one of the key elements of PepsiCo’s vision,” he says. “To stay current, it is important to us to foster a culture of continuous learning. This will not only support employees to develop their careers but also as a business to help build internal capability.”

When it comes to the introduction of disruptive technologies in the workplace, Weaver says PepsiCo Ireland is squarely focused on leveraging these to create better jobs and build a sustainable organisation.

“An example of this is digitising our manufacturing facilities by introducing technology, upskilling our associates and eliminating paper waste in our supply chain,” he adds.

PepsiCo is also striving to upskill its employees when it comes to these new challenges in the workplace.

“We have a culture of continuous learning where we support our employees’ career opportunities through on-the-job training,” says Weaver. “Specific to our employee experience, we are on a journey to digitise all aspects of the learning journey. Associate onboarding and both annual compliance training and just-in-time needs, will be completed digitally. We believe this creates a stacked-win scenario, where our associates benefit from an improved experience and the company benefits from better organisation of process and eliminated waste in the system.”

Over time, he adds, the hope is that employee engagement and empowerment will increase across all roles within the organisation.


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