The future of work, Artificial Intelligence and automation

On March 3 Graham Attwell was invited to speak about AI, automation and the future of work at a seminar entitled ‘Vocational Education and Training’s Role in Business Innovation’ at the Ramon Areces Foundation in Madrid.

His presentation looked at the future of work, linked to the challenges of Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the new Green Economy. He discussed the various predictions on future jobs and occupations from bodies including CEDEFOP, OECD and the World Bank. He concluded that although some jobs will be created and some occupations  displaced by new technologies, the greatest impact will be in terms of the tasks performed within jobs. Future skills needs include the need for higher level cognitive competences as well as the demand for so called lower skilled work in services and caring professions.
He went on to consider the significance of these changes for vocational education and training, including the need for new curricula, and increased provision of lifelong learning and retraining for those affected by the changing labour market.
Artificial Intelligence, he said, may also play an important role in the organisation and delivery of vocational education and training. This includes the use of technologies such as machine learning and Natural Language processing for Learner engagement, recruitment and support, Learning Analytics and ‘nudge learning’ through a Learning Record Store, and  the creation and delivery of learning content. He provided examples such as the use of Chatbots in vocational education and training schools and colleges and suggested that the use of AI technologies can allow a move from summary assessment to formative assessment. The use of these technologies, he said, will reduce the administrative load for teachers and trainers and allow them to focus on coaching, particularly benefiting those at the top and lower end of the student cohort.
He concluded that to benefit from this potential will requite new and enhanced continuing professional development for teachers and trainers.