Skills strategy needed, Microsoft says

Tech April 06, 2019 12:54

By The Nation Weekend 

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Thailand urgently needs a workforce skills development plan to take advantage of the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) as workers skilled in such fields will be in demand for the jobs of tomorrow.

AI technology brings with it game-changing capabilities for businesses and consumers alike. In this ever-changing world, it is increasingly difficult to think of any job or field that is untouched by technology. Many students today will graduate into a job market full of roles that do not even exist today, said Dhanawat Suthumpun, managing director of Microsoft Thailand.

“With many businesses already interested in the potential of AI to drive their capabilities to new heights, it is vital that they also invest in the future of not only technology but also their people in order to create lasting, sustainable change,” said Dhanawat.

A Microsoft and IDC joint survey of 101 business organisations in Thailand has revealed key gaps in available and in-demand skills across the Thai workforce as the country continues its progress into a future driven by artificial intelligence. 

The study shows that almost half of Thai businesses surveyed had yet to carry out any workforce skills development plan to take advantage of the capabilities of AI.

The study also shows that only 20 per cent of Thai businesses have developed and fully implemented comprehensive plans to develop a truly AI-ready workforce, while 32 per cent have begun partial implementation of their plans. However, 48 per cent of organisations surveyed have yet to take any action in this matter, with 21 per cent having no plans to do so at this point.

Michael Araneta, associate vice president of IDC Financial Insights, said that it also saw strong recognition and relatively widespread recognition of the workforce as an important element for the future of businesses. 

Around 77 per cent of Thai businesses surveyed indicated that they would at least invest evenly on employee skills and AI. Companies and their employees are also in agreement over the employer's central role in reskilling the workforce.

Both sides also share the same perspective when it comes to the future impact of AI on their jobs. Both business leaders and workers expect the technology to empower them to perform better or more efficiently in their roles, so they foresee the emergence of new, knowledge-based jobs. Only 5 per cent of business leaders and 13 per cent of workers believe that AI will take over jobs previously done by humans.

Thai business leaders participating in the study named creativity, digital skills, and analytical or statistical skills as the most valuable skills among employees in the future. They also predict that these three skills as well as the ability to carry out scientific research and development will be in shortage over the next three years.

There is the gap between the expectations of business leaders and employees in choosing important skills to develop for the future. Executives in Thai organisations believe that a strong workforce will need more than just technical skills, with project management, leadership and people management, and creativity being the three skills with the highest gaps between leadership and employee perspectives on their importance.

Furthermore, employees also feel more sceptical about their organisations' cultural readiness for AI adoption.

Elevated to top priority

Dhanawat said that Microsoft has made skills development a top priority for people of all ages. Through initiatives such as the Hour of Code, #MakeWhatsNext, and the Imagine Cup competition.

“We are empowering next-generation talent with the right tools and skills to create something special out of technology. Developers looking to get started with AI can also take advantage of free resources available from programmes such as the Microsoft AI School,” said Dhanawat.