How to Bridge the Generative AI Skills Gap: Insights from Dow, Microsoft, and Vanderbilt University

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Hear how leaders at Dow, Microsoft, and Vanderbilt University are navigating the generative AI (GenAI) skills gap and organizational transformation in this webinar recap.

Key Takeaways

  • GenAI's transformative potential is recognized across various sectors, necessitating urgent upskilling and transformation strategies.

  • A key benefit of GenAI comes from enhancing human capabilities, not replacing them—fostering creativity and productivity.

  • Advocacy for responsible AI policies and proactive risk assessments is key to safeguarding against potential misuses and ethical dilemmas in GenAI applications.

  • Leadership endorsement is crucial for encouraging GenAI adoption and training within organizations.

  • Tailored, role-specific GenAI training in organizations is required to unlock the potential of the technology. 

  • In a sea of GenAI content, leaders should look to training materials that are developed by trusted institutions.

Businesses across industries are facing the pressing need to bridge the generative AI skills gap. This gap not only encompasses technical skills but also the integration of GenAI within organizational strategies and ethical frameworks. 

The Bridging the Generative AI Talent Gap Webinar hosted by Coursera, brought together a panel of experts from industry and academia to share insights and strategies on leveraging GenAI effectively. 

Here’s a look at some of the key takeaways from the discussion:

Strategic Investment in GenAI

The transition towards GenAI is not just about keeping pace with technology but reshaping how businesses operate, innovate, and compete. A staggering 71% of executives surveyed by BCG say that they plan to increase tech investments in 2024—an 11-point jump from 2023—and 89% rank AI and GenAI as a top-three tech priority for 2024. However, two out of three executives are ambivalent or outright dissatisfied with their organization's progress, with a shortage of talent and skills being cited as the number one challenge. It’s clear that GenAI is an imperative for many leaders and a daunting challenge when it comes to putting it into practice. 

Expert Insights:

  • Alison Klein 

    • “Generative AI is here, and it's obvious that it's something that will become ingrained in our employees' day to day activities, much like Google search.”

    • “We strongly believe that our IT organization should really be leading the way and understanding what GenAI can do and what it doesn't do, so that we can best help our 30,000 plus colleagues around the rest of the company. So to start out, we wanted our employees to really get that foundation of what GenAI is.”

  • Graeme Malcolm 

    • “I think it will be a more engaging process. I also think it will free us up to do higher level work…it's empowering in the sense that once I learn to harness this tool, I can get the mundane stuff done, and that frees me up to think at a higher level.”

  • Jules White

    • "Organizations that aren't investing in [GenAI], they're just perpetuating this fear in their workforce."

    • “The first thing you have to do is start showing people that there are concrete examples of how [GenAI] can really make a meaningful difference in the work that they do—and not in a way that's going to replace them, but in a way that's going to make their work more fun.” 

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The Ethical and Technical Groundwork

The dialogue underscored the critical need for ethical guidelines and robust technical frameworks in GenAI implementation. With the multitude of tools available, organizations must navigate the ethical considerations and technical complexities carefully.

Expert Insights:

  • Alison Klein

    • “We're working very closely with our legal team to understand what protocols need to be in place, what training employees need to complete before they are able to start using Copilot. And so I think really offering that appropriate training in conjunction with the rollout, I believe will be the key to the successful adoption of the capabilities.”

  • Jules White

    • ​​”The starting point is to educate people not to stop thinking, but instead to use it in ways to think more.”

    • “I think you start internally. First you build up the expertise, the responsibility within your own workforce, and then you start figuring out what are the safe ways that we can take it outside.

  • Graeme Malcolm

    • “There's the how do I, as an organization, ensure that we use this technology ethically and responsibly, and how do we guard against those who might not?”

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Driving Adoption Through Organizational Communication and Alignment

Successful GenAI initiatives require not just technical readiness but strong organizational alignment, clear communication, and GenAI training from trusted institutions. Dow's approach to fostering a culture of learning and innovation serves as a prime example.

Expert Insights:

  • Alison Klein

    • “I’m very excited...we ended up with 84% of our IT employees that completed the [Generative AI Primer] certificate...And in addition to that, we had over 200 that completed the badge [which entailed the completion of three separate pieces of training content].”

    • “We've had amazing support from the top. This all started last year when our CEO heard about some of the generative AI courses that were available in Coursera and reached out to our CIO to see how we could get them in front of our employees.”

    • “We started rolling out the training, those of us that were on the launch committee, we started posting our badges on LinkedIn right away, and people started seeing that.”

    • “At the end, we had all of our CIO leadership team complete the course as well as a way to lead by example. You know, they were really, you know, showing the organization that taking that one hour to invest in the training was worth it.”

  • Graeme Malcolm 

    • “I think people don't go to work and say, I'm going to do AI today, they go to work to do their job, to do whatever it is that they were paid to do. And so I think part of the approach to getting AI adopted—and to training people to make use of it—is to put it into context.”

    • “There's a sea of content out there that we're swimming in…which is why you want to be going to reputable sources for training, like Coursera, like Microsoft, like universities that are known so that, you know, there's curation happening.”

  • Jules White

    • “You need to give people building blocks that make them realize this is different. It's much more powerful, and it's something that [they] can actually use.”

The Future of GenAI and Work

As the GenAI landscape continues to evolve, so must the learning and development strategies of organizations. The panelists highlighted the continuous nature of learning in GenAI, with an emphasis on practical applications and real-world problem-solving.

Expert Insights:

  • Alison Klein

    • “What I'm excited about is GenAI opens the door for all of our employees to have access to tools to do their job more efficiently.”

    • “We're really at the tip of the iceberg as it relates to GenAI and understanding what it can do for us. And so as it evolves and the training evolves, I think we're going to find more relevant courses and offerings to offer to our employees.”

  • Jules White

    • “[GenAI] is going to completely change the game. It's going to make computing a much more creative space.”

  • Graeme Malcolm

    • “The exciting thing about AI in general and generative AI specifically, is it's a huge change that's made up of lots of small incremental changes… There are numerous ways that AI, and generative AI in particular, are going to change the way we do things and improve things for society at large.”

In conclusion, the discussion presented a comprehensive overview of the strategies, challenges, and opportunities associated with bridging the GenAI talent gap. 

By investing in strategic learning, fostering ethical and technical frameworks, aligning organizational goals, and promoting continuous learning, businesses can unlock the full potential of GenAI. The ability to adapt, learn, and innovate with GenAI will be crucial for staying competitive in the digital age.

Hear how learning experts at Dow, Microsoft, and Vanderbilt University are planning for GenAI.

Watch the webinar

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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