The potential impact of artificial intelligence on the job market for STEM professionals

The potential impact of artificial intelligence on the job market for STEM professionals

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The excessive excitement around AI is causing concern among employees, but it is important to transform this worry into enthusiasm. Here are some actions that employers and employees should take.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new concept. It has been in the works for many years and has progressed from being confined to laboratories and high-performance computers to being utilized in practical applications. Its application has expanded beyond what is visible, such as assisting medical professionals in disease detection, and recommending movies on streaming platforms. With the integration of ChatGPT, AI has become a widely recognized and accepted part of society.

<p>Nothing new: AI is an older technology than many of us think</p>


No changes: Artificial intelligence has been around for longer than many of us realize.

In the last year, it has been impossible to turn on the TV or radio, browse social media, attend a conference, or go to a business meeting without hearing about the potential impact of AI. Some believe it will make our work more exciting, while others fear it will replace our jobs. There are also predictions of having more free time or even a catastrophic scenario where AI destroys us while we sleep. These predictions are far from the original discussions about AI that started this debate last year.

The emergence of new, easily accessible generative AI tools on the internet brought the concept of AI to the forefront for the world. The tool ChatGPT, which uses generative AI, quickly gained popularity as it was open for use by anyone. It has become the fastest-growing app to date.

The convenience of this accessibility made it possible for the general public to access and test AI for the first time, including those in STEM fields. Through their experiments, they were able to witness the speed at which these tools could complete tasks that would normally take humans hours or days. This understandably caused concern as they also observed that AI applications were not flawless, yet still impressive. However, based on their past experiences with technology advancements, they were aware that AI would continue to improve at a rapid pace.

Why One-Third of STEM Professionals are Concerned about Artificial Intelligence

The concerns were strengthened by news stories about the potential impact of AI on various human occupations. However, there were also reassurances about the potential positive effects of AI on the economy, science, medicine, and other areas, which are currently difficult to envision. This conflicting information caused both fear and excitement among the general public.

AI is rightly likened to previous technological revolutions, starting with the first industrial revolution in the 18th century. As we’ve seen throughout history, economies eventually recover, recalibrate and grow following these revolutions.

However, these comparisons caused concern for numerous individuals regarding their employment and career prospects in various industries, including those in STEM. According to SThree’s survey on the evolution of the STEM world, 34% of professionals expressed fears of job loss, particularly in the tech sector where over half of UK respondents reported the highest level of worry – a proportion similar to that of the general UK population. This anxiety is not limited to older employees, as 44% of young STEM professionals also feel vulnerable to the impact of AI.

Fear in uncertainty

The ongoing presence of AI signifies its permanence. Efforts to delay its progress through restrictions will prove ineffective. If you fail to adopt AI, your rivals will. As history has shown with advancements in technology, once something is introduced, it cannot be reversed. Therefore, how can we assist STEM experts in overcoming their concerns and transform uneasiness into acceptance and enthusiasm?

The current impact of AI on employment may not be negative after all. According to Gartner Research, the overall effect of AI on jobs will remain neutral until 2026, as employers need time to decide which AI technologies to utilize, where to implement them, and how to incorporate them. However, beyond that, Gartner foresees a primarily positive impact, with an additional 500 million human jobs expected to emerge by 2033.

Although AI may eventually take over certain jobs, it will also enhance others, which is why it is sometimes known as augmented intelligence instead of artificial intelligence.

People all around the world can anticipate having more engaging and satisfying jobs without the monotonous tasks that AI is capable of doing more efficiently, quickly, and inexpensively. What specific tasks are these? Only time will reveal, but according to ChatGPT, these tasks may include data entry, financial analysis, routine laboratory work, code creation and testing, as well as transportation through autonomous vehicles and logistics. This information seems to be derived from media headlines created by humans. The development of AI is still in its early stages, and its abilities will continue to advance rapidly.

How can one improve their skills?

Workers do not believe they are prepared for the advancements in AI. A majority (52 percent) of STEM workers express worries about needing to improve their skills in order to advance in their careers with AI, similar to the 55 percent of concerned employees in other fields. Employees state that they require their employers to invest in training opportunities, allow time for learning, provide access to AI tools, and support attendance at AI conferences. Employers must also communicate effectively and, most importantly, listen to their employees. They must promote company cultures that are open to change, support the strategic implementation of AI, and invest sufficiently in the technology.

Employers are aware of the need to enhance the skills of their employees, but are uncertain about how to do so. It’s evident that in the field of STEM, specific technical skills related to AI will be in high demand, such as data analysis, machine learning, data engineering, computer vision, and AI development and programming. However, as the nature of work changes, certain soft skills will also become increasingly important. Employers highlight the importance of flexibility, adaptability, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and interpersonal skills. Job roles may also become more interdisciplinary. To address any initial challenges with AI, professionals may need to have strong communication skills, be able to educate others, and have a good understanding of the legal and ethical aspects of AI.

The top new jobs listed by ChatGPT include ethics and compliance managers, trainers, explainers, and AI auditors. However, these jobs primarily reflect human speculation and concerns instead of being essential new roles in AI. There are likely to be numerous other positions that are difficult to envision at this early stage, particularly involving generative AI. Nonetheless, these jobs will emerge, much like they have during previous industrial and technological revolutions. It is crucial for us to prepare for them.

Explore the comprehensive report, How the STEM Industry is Changing, for further analysis on the responses and actions of STEM experts and organizations towards AI and automation, and recommendations for their next steps.

<p>Timo Lehne, CEO at Sthree</p>

Timo Lehne, CEO at Sthree

In April 2022, Timo Lehne became the CEO of SThree after serving as interim CEO since January 1, 2022. Prior to this role, he was the Senior Managing Director for the company’s largest region, DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland).

Timo started working with SThree in 2006 as a consultant at Progressive Recruitment in Germany after completing his studies in International Economics in the Netherlands. He quickly advanced in his career and significantly increased Düsseldorf’s net fees in the DACH region from 4% to 27% between 2009 and 2012. In 2017, he was promoted to Managing Director for the DACH region, responsible for 33% of the company’s revenue and leading a team of over 1,000 employees at 10 locations.