Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions has revealed encouraging signs that the UK’s emerging role as a world leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be boosted by homegrown talent; as 1 in 4 (25%) young people aged 8 to 18 are considering a future career in the industry.
Undertaken by YouGov, the findings are based on responses from 1,484 children aged 8 to 18 in the UK. They indicate that the talent pipeline is being spearheaded by young people who cite their existing enjoyment of technology in general (66%) and believing a career in AI would be exciting and motivating (37%) or wanting to work at the cutting edge of technology (31%).
Whilst these are reasons to be optimistic, there are also warning signs the diversity essential to building both an inclusive AI industry and one that mitigates negative job prospects for tomorrow’s workforce, could be at risk if not addressed now. Of the young people surveyed, those who were unlikely to consider a career in AI (56%), said:
- The most cited reason (29%) was that they would prefer a more creative career
- Nearly a quarter (24%) said they did not think they would have the right educational qualifications.
- A worrying 21% simply did not think they would be smart enough for a job in AI
These findings indicate that there are still too many young people being left in the dark when it comes to understanding the breadth and diversity of expertise, experience and education that the emerging AI industry will need to thrive; from artists, creative writers and linguists to programmers and problem solvers. This could potentially hamper the strides the UK has made in becoming a global leader in AI.
The research marks the UK launch of a series of events showcasing AI for young people. Sage FutureMakers Labs, run through Sage Foundation in partnership with charity Tech for Life, is educating young people on the diverse range of opportunities available to pursue a career in AI. Critically, an introduction to ethical design is provided as part of the course, an essential framework for children to embrace at an early stage in their education.
Sage has already highlighted the need to ensure the UK has a diverse and healthy talent pipeline to support its customers, the business community and UK economy to deliver on the potential productivity benefits of AI in 2017’s Ethics of Code. Now, Sage is calling for more action from government and the tech industry to tackle the elitism problem in the AI industry and emerging technologies.
Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage said: “It’s great to see the government starting to assess the importance of AI, evidenced in the comprehensive sector deal announced recently, committing extra resources and funding to help grow this promising sector. However, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done, particularly when it comes to the elitism problem in the AI industry, as our research confirms.
“It’s no longer the case that you need a master’s degree to consider a career in emerging tech; yet 24% of young people we surveyed think you do. We need to educate young people what working in tech really means.
“At Sage we are passionate about safeguarding the future of this important technology, and I am proud our Sage FutureMakers Labs are bringing technology education to young people from all backgrounds. We want to work with more tech leaders to ensure the UK can seize our unique opportunity to shape AI positively and lead the international community in its ethical development.”
Lyndsey Britton, Founder, Tech for Life said: “It’s encouraging to see how many young people enjoy technology and believe having a career in the sector will be exciting. We need to make sure that the support is there for them to get the right skills to be able to work in future jobs at the cutting edge of digital like AI. The young people’s events we put on are increasingly popular and there’s a real thirst from young people to learn, especially from industry experts.
Working with organisations like Sage means we can help make sure that opportunities and learning are accessible to young people from any background and ensure there is a future workforce with the right skills and knowledge to do jobs that probably haven’t even been invented yet.”
Over the next six months, the free to attend, Sage FutureMakers labs will run across the UK and Ireland; empowering over 150 young people, aged 18 and under. After these initial courses, around 30 young people will be offered a more in-depth one-day course in September, with around 15 then offered a relevant placement with Sage or a Sage partner working in AI.