The in-demand AI skills students should learn for tomorrow’s workplaces


AI is here to stay in 2024 and experts predict it will continue to create significant changes – from influencing federal elections to the nature of the job market.

But many young people who will be looking for work in this new economy are likely to be scratching their heads – wondering what skills they should pick up for future success.

University of the Sunshine Coast Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching, Senior Lecturer, ICT, Associate Professor Rania Shibl told EducationDaily that across all industries, skills such as AI literacy, digital skills, data analysis, and soft skills like critical thinking and creativity are increasingly in demand.

“Employers are increasingly seeking people with the ability to work with AI systems, conduct data analysis and management, and the ability to adapt to evolving technologies,” she says.

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“Any new technology will always cause disruption to one or more industries. With AI, we are likely to see more efficiencies in admin-type activities (emails, report writing, etc). AI is not a complete solution for businesses but offers significant benefits, such as computing vast quantities of data to aid decision-making, improve management effectiveness, and boost productivity.”

Utilising AI systems in the retail sector

In the retail sector, where many young people take their first steps into the job market, stores such as Woolworths and Coles are starting to utilise AI-based self-checkouts to reduce queue times and financial losses and AI is even being used in inventory management.

“Certain skills will become more valuable to employers as we embrace AI in the workplace,” Dr Shibl told EducationDaily.

“The ability to work alongside AI systems, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and apply them to industry-specific challenges is crucial. Understanding the basics of machine learning and AI applications in various industries could also be beneficial. There is also a growing need for skills in technology ethics and governance, as AI becomes more prevalent in decision-making processes, so it is worth developing soft skills like critical thinking and problem-solving, as these cannot be easily replicated by AI.”

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AI-powered analysis in healthcare

Dr Ashlyn Sahay is a health workforce researcher and senior lecturer at CQUniversity’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Sciences and has been researching the future of work in the healthcare sector.

“In healthcare, jobs at high risk of automation include medical transcriptionists – several departments in the hospital are now beginning to use automated speech recognition software, which is highly accurate and cost-effective for routine dictation tasks,” she told EducationDaily.

Read more: Navigating sustainable employment – Career trends for 2030 and beyond

“We are also beginning to see AI-powered image analysis tools are now assisting in medical diagnosis. This may potentially replace the need for technicians for basic image acquisition and interpretation as we see at the airport when we scan our passports. Other routine administrative tasks may also be handled by software and automation tools, thereby reducing the need for some administrative roles.”

She says, however, it is important for young people not to panic.

“Regardless of the pathway you choose for your profession, job losses won’t necessarily be absolute,” Dr Sahay says.

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“However, it is critical to stay informed about trends in the field and develop adaptable skills to prepare for potential changes in the job market. It is important to recognise the area that you are interested in. Healthcare may not be a calling for all, but areas such as information technology, cyber security, renewal energy and sustainability, engineering, and trade work such as plumbing, electricians, builders, etc are also high growth areas for the future.”

She suggestions joining a profession where you enjoy the work and gain the most job satisfaction.

“Continuous learning, upskilling and reflecting on your career choice and progress will be key to your career success in the future.”

On-the-job training still offers valuable learning

Dr Sahay says pathways into the workforce are unlikely to change.

“On-the-job training (work-integrated learning) is still and will continue to be, one of the most valuable learning methods,” she told EducationDaily.

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“The advent of AI doesn’t change that. However, these experiences will likely cover more on the use of AI within businesses. SMEs will not necessarily have the expertise and will seek out interns with this knowledge.”

Higher education, Dr Sahay says, plays a vital role in equipping the next generation to integrate new technology across all industries.

“AI may be harnessed to offer personalised and interactive training on-demand and to simulate real-world scenarios for trainees,” she told EducationDaily.

“However, AI is meant to augment human capabilities rather than replace them; therefore, the role of human mentors and trainers remains crucial, with AI used as a tool to enhance the learning experience.”

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