1 in 4 young people ready to consider career in AI

Cloud business management providers, Sage, warn future potential will only be unlocked if industry does more to inspire a diverse cohort of youngsters

Sage have revealed signs that the UK’s emerging role as a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) could be boosted by homegrown talent, with 1 in 4 young people aged 8 to 18 said to be considering a future career in the industry.

Undertaken by YouGov, the findings are based on responses from 1,484 children aged 8 to 18 in the UK. They indicate that the talent pipeline is being spearheaded by young people who cite: an existing enjoyment of technology in general (66%); a belief that a career in AI would be exciting and motivating (37%); wanting to work at the cutting edge of technology (31%).

Whilst these are reasons to be optimistic, there are also warning signs the diversity essential to building an inclusive AI industry – and one that mitigates negative job prospects for tomorrow’s workforce – could be at risk if not addressed now. Of the young people surveyed, those who were unlikely to consider a career in AI (56%), findings revealed that:

 – 29% would prefer a more creative career

 – 24% did not think they would have the right educational qualifications

 – 21% did not think they would be smart enough for a job in AI

“It’s no longer the case that you need a master’s degree to consider a career in emerging tech, yet 24% of young people we surveyed think you do. We need to educate young people what working in tech really means.”

These findings indicate that there are still too many young people being left in the dark when it comes to understanding the breadth and diversity of expertise, experience and education that the emerging AI industry will need to thrive; from artists, creative writers and linguists, to programmers and problem solvers. This could potentially hamper the strides the UK has made in becoming a global leader in AI.

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The research marks the UK launch of a series of events showcasing AI for young people. Sage FutureMakers Labs – run through Sage Foundation in partnership with the charity, Tech for Life – is educating young people on the diverse range of opportunities available to pursue a career in AI. Critically, an introduction to ethical design is provided as part of the course, an essential framework for children to embrace at an early stage in their education.  

Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage, said: “It’s great to see the government starting to assess the importance of AI, evidenced in the comprehensive sector deal announced recently, committing extra resources and funding to help grow this promising sector. However, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done, particularly when it comes to the elitism problem in the AI industry, as our research confirms.

It’s no longer the case that you need a master’s degree to consider a career in emerging tech, yet 24% of young people we surveyed think you do. We need to educate young people what working in tech really means.”

Over the next six months, free Sage FutureMakers labs will run across the UK and Ireland, for more than 150 young people aged 18 and under. After these initial courses, around 30 young people will be offered a more in-depth one-day course in September, with around 15 then offered a relevant placement with Sage or a Sage partner working in AI.

To find out more and sign up to the sessions please visit Tech for Life.

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