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In response to -certainly not unwarranted- concerns about job loss due to the rise of AI, major technology companies have formed a consortium to prepare workers and organizations in the ICT sector for upcoming changes through upskilling and retraining. Cisco spearheaded the foundation of this aptly named AI-Enabled ICT Workforce Consortium, with support from Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, SAP and Accenture.

The consortium was announced in light of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council currently taking place in Leuven, where AI is high on the agenda. According to the founders, the initiative aims to explore AI’s impact on IT sector jobs. They also recommend training for an ‘AI-ready’ ICT workforce.

In its first phase, the consortium analyses AI’s impact on 56 ICT jobs. Some of these include high-impact strategic roles, while others are entry-level jobs for which AI could offer ‘promising entry points’ to lower-skilled employees. According to Techcrunch, the consortium is not yet making any statements about exactly what kind of positions they are talking about.

The positions in question would account for at least 80 percent of the top 45 ICT jobs for which there were the most openings last year in the U.S. and five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands). These countries comprise a significant portion of the ICT sector, with 10 million ICT workers.

Hiring freezes and layoffs due to AI

A salient detail is that consortium participant IBM, for example, has implemented a hiring freeze for positions that the company believes can be done (in part) by AI. As recently as last year, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna estimated that his company could lay off 30 percent of its workforce over the next few years.

Dell (which is not a participant in the consortium, by the way) is also implementing a hiring freeze and reduced its own workforce by 13,000 last year. There are similar examples.

The consortium will first deliver a report on how AI is changing the job landscape in the IT sector and how companies and employees can respond accordingly. That report should be ready this summer. What it will do next is unclear, but should become apparent in the coming months. In any case, the emphasis should be on practical recommendations.

Training millions of people

The consortium participants have already set goals for themselves. These vary enormously, and it is not always clear what these mean and who they have in mind. Cisco, for example, is setting a goal of training 25 million people worldwide in cybersecurity and digital skills by 2032. IBM wants to train 30 million people in digital skills by 2030 and two million specifically in ‘AI skills’.

Intel, on the other hand, aims to train 30 million people in AI by 2030. Microsoft promises to equip 10 million people with ‘in-demand’ skills by 2025, especially those from ‘disadvantaged communities’. SAP is sticking to 2 million by 2025. Google is patting itself on the back by saying it has already trained 100 million people in digital skills and is allocating another €25 million to support AI training in Europe.

Motley crew of advisory bodies

The consortium has further gathered around it a motley crew of advisory bodies, including trade unions American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Communications Workers of America, ‘community of practice’ CHAIN5, the European Vocational Training Association (EVTA), learning platform Khan Academy and the European SME organization SMEUnited.

The sixth EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council will take place from April 3-4, this time with Belgium as host country. The forum was founded in 2021 by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission and the U.S. government under President Joe Biden. This year’s program included a delegation visit to the research centre Imec.

Also read: AI is often just a good excuse for layoffs