Editorial

Government says its investing in AI skills

The UK Government has published new guidance to help businesses ensure employees are skilled in artificial intelligence (AI).

Posted 4 December 2023 by Christine Horton


The UK government has published new guidance to help businesses ensure employees are skilled in artificial intelligence (AI).

The government said the guidance is intended to help employers boost their employees’ understanding of AI so they can use it safely in their day-to-day roles. It wants to set out key knowledge, skills and behaviours including how to use AI tools effectively such as Large Language Models (LLMs) and the safe and secure management of sensitive data.

Developed in partnership with the Innovate UK BridgeAI programme and The Alan Turing Institute, the guidance covers everything from using AI to evaluate the performance of projects through to how to build the skills and techniques needed to solve issues as people work with AI when they crop up.

It comes as Microsoft announced a £2.5 billion investment in UK AI over the next three years. The single largest investment in its forty-year history in the country, the software giant is expanding its AI datacentre infrastructure to process, host and store the massive amounts of digital information needed to develop AI models.

“Making sure workers up and down the country have the skills they need for their jobs with and in AI is a key part of our strategy in making the UK an AI powerhouse and ensuring the skills of our workforce keep pace with this rapidly developing technology,” said Minister for AI Viscount Camrose.

“This guidance will be vital in helping us realise that ambition, continuing an important conversation with businesses across the UK to make sure the steps they can take are practical, functional, and successful.

“Having a workforce which is equipped to work alongside AI will drive growth for businesses and allow us to realise the enormous opportunities AI presents in every sector of our economy.”

Categorising AI users

There are five areas identified in the guidance that are broken down into corresponding knowledge and skillsets, such as knowledge of how AI can be used effectively; the ability to carry out a range of tasks; using appropriate behaviour when working with AI; and strong professional values to develop a sound judgement in situations where AI could be used.

Underpinning the guidance is a breakdown of four distinct ‘personas’, which correspond to the level of AI expertise an individual may need. This will help users – individuals, employees, employers – to quickly identify their skills gaps, and training providers to develop relevant training schemes to address these.

According to the government, AI Citizens are defined in the guidance as members of the public who could be customers or employees of an organisation making use of AI.

AI Workers are employees whose day-to-day role sits outside of data and AI, but whose jobs are likely to be impacted by the technologies.

AI Professionals are also identified as employees with specific responsibilities around data and AI, while AI Leaders are people in senior positions which help to oversee and introduce emerging technologies, such as individuals in board-level roles.

Government seeking guidance

The government is now seeking views from across the UK’s expert community. Stakeholders have the opportunity to comment on the guidance through the Alan Turing Institute until January, which will host a webinar and Q&A on December 7.

Building on this feedback, in the new year InnovateUK BridgeAI and the Alan Turing Institute will publish updated guidance, an accompanying skills framework and sector-specific case studies. These resources will help businesses understand their AI upskilling needs and training providers to develop training solutions.