EXCLUSIVE: Fears of AI’s impact on workforce upskilling is bringing together nine of the world’s biggest tech companies. Here’s what you need to know about their new consortium



AI workforce upskilling consortium GettyImages 1501390563 e1712173369979

If you’re part of the tech workforce, you’d better fasten your seatbelt. Because it’s going to be a rocky ride.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) expects that nearly a quarter of global jobs will change over the next five years in part thanks to AI. And the International Monetary fund’s (IMF) predictions go even further, with an expected 60% of jobs in advanced economics being exposed to the technology.

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While these may not sound like a lot on paper, this translates to billions of affected lives—and the tech companies know it.

That’s why starting today, nine of the world’s biggest tech companies are joining forces to tackle AI’s impact on the tech workforce through a new consortium: the AI-Enabled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Workforce Consortium.

Led by Cisco and joined by Accenture, Eightfold, Google, IBM, Indeed, Intel, Microsoft, and SAP, the group is hoping to be able to stay ahead of the rapidly growing and moving AI wave by recommending skilling and upskilling opportunities to ensure workers can adapt. 

Many of the companies already have existing skills training goals, totaling to more than 95 million individuals over the next 10 years, including Intel and IBM commitments specifically relating to AI. But as Francine Katsoudas, the chief people, policy and purpose officer at Cisco, admits—all of the various paths can be overwhelming for learners. This, in part, contributed to the companies realizing they cannot truly tackle AI’s impact on the workforce alone. 

“What’s unique about this moment is I think it’s really how AI from a technology perspective is coming together,” Katsoudas tells Fortune. “And I think for all of us, there’s this realization that for those that perhaps are not connected, for those who have been impacted by the digital divide, there’s risk here if we don’t move forward a bit faster.”

The consortium also includes six advisors, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Khan Academy.

Across the board disruption—from truck drivers to software engineers

The formation of the consortium was inspired by talks facilitated within the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Talent for Growth Task Force, of which Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins was a member.

In a statement to Fortune, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo says her department is focused on helping boost good-quality and high-paying jobs of the future—something that the consortium will only support.

“I am grateful to the consortium members for joining in this effort to confront the new workforce needs that are arising in the wake of AI’s rapid development. This work will help provide unprecedented insight on the specific skill needs for these jobs. I hope that this consortium is just the beginning, and that the private sector sees this as a call to action to ensure our workforces can reap the benefits of AI,” Raimondo says.

Collectively, the nine consortium companies employ more than 1.75 million people and have over $805 billion in annual revenue, according to Fortune 500 data.

“We have this very exciting new technology that companies all over the globe are rushing to figure out how to utilize,” says Hannah Calhoon, head of AI innovation at Indeed. “And we know that it’s likely to be particularly impactful to the day-to-day work of folks in technology fields.”

The consortium’s first phase of work will focus on evaluating AI’s impact on dozens of information and communication technology job roles and provide actionable training insights for business leaders and workers.

“We recognize that we have to create pathways for our people. And the more that we can actually leverage AI, in how we do this, I think will start to really impact career journeys,” Katsoudas tells Fortune.

Nearly 1 out of 5 (19.8%) jobs on Indeed are considered to be “highly” exposed to generative AI, meaning the technology is believed to be good or excellent at performing at least 80% of that job’s skills.

By working together with companies directly, Indeed hopes to be able to understand what jobs employers are seeking to fill and what skills are needed for the future—that way they can best help best match job seekers with positions, says Calhoon.

She adds that there is a much greater expectation that disruption caused by AI will be within more white collar fields.

“Every job will seem to see some level of disruption, from truck driver to software engineer,” Calhoon explains.

A future with upskilling

More than half (58%) of workers believe the skills their job requires will change significantly over the next half decade, according to the WEF.

While Calhoon says there are many paths toward upskilling with AI, a large slate of courses today focus on broad topics like machine learning or large language models. Alternately, an increase of functionally-specific courses, such as AI for marketers or healthcare worker, would be useful and cater more toward practical use.

“The vast, vast majority of us are instead going to be thinking about: ‘how do I leverage AI tools that someone else has built effectively in my day to day work?’” Calhoon says.

In order for teams to stay ahead of the curve, constant training and upskilling is going to be important for those working in tech—with companies at the front of the table encouraging it, Katsoudas says.

“We’ve seen that talent is worried about their future and so what this means to an employee in any one of our companies is that we’re going to be able to provide more structure, more guidance and support to really help all of us navigate some of the changes that are coming,” she says.



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