RESEARCH NOTE: Amazon’s ‘AI Ready’ Initiative Aims to Bridge the AI Skills Gap

By Melody Brue - January 31, 2024
Royalty-free image by Pop Nukoonrat via Dreamstime.com

The demand for AI talent is rapidly increasing, and soon AI will become a crucial skill set for almost every corporate worker. To tackle the major challenge of filling the AI skills gap, Amazon has launched the “AI Ready” initiative. By 2025, the program will provide free AI skills training to two million individuals worldwide.

The initiative seeks to address the AI skills gap by offering comprehensive and accessible AI training courses for people with varying levels of expertise. This ranges from nontechnical learning modules on the fundamentals of generative AI to more advanced units on the use of Amazon’s CodeWhisperer AI code generator. Other courses aim to educate participants about AWS machine learning, language models, and the Bedrock AI app maker. Courses are available on the AWS Educate and Skill Builder sites.

It is essential to note that the courses provided by Amazon also serve the purpose of promoting the company’s own AI products. This strategic move positions Amazon’s AI technology in the competitive arena alongside significant players such as Microsoft/OpenAI and Google.

Amazon’s “AI Ready” program also includes AWS GAI scholarships to provide access to GAI education offered by Udacity for more than 50,000 high school and university students globally. Amazon has also announced a collaboration with Code.org to help students learn about generative AI as part of the initiative.

What Prompted the AI Ready Initiative

An AWS report shows that 92% of U.S. organizations will be AI-enabled by 2025. Over 93% of employers and 86% of employees anticipate using generative AI within the next five years to increase innovation and creativity, automate repetitive tasks, and boost learning. As I discussed in a recent analysis of chatbots and copilots, GAI will not be used as a substitute for human workers. Instead, it will augment human reasoning and creativity to make workers more effective. As AI continues to reshape the workplace, human-AI collaboration will become crucial.

A recent report from the Oliver Wyman Forum unveiled at this month’s World Economic Forum highlights that 96% of employees view generative AI as positively impacting their jobs. Of those, half affirm that they already actively use generative AI in their weekly work routines. Despite this enthusiasm, the report indicates that 80% of white-collar employees desire improved or additional AI training, yet only 64% report receiving it.

This sentiment resonates with their superiors, as shown in the Microsoft Work Trend Index, where 82% of leaders said employees must acquire new skills to navigate the evolving landscape shaped by the growth of AI. A study from the IBM Institute for Business Value indicated that the primary talent concern for C-suite executives is the development of new skills for existing employees.

Still, investments don’t yet match up with those concerns. A KPMG study showed that in the next six to 12 months, 83% of executives anticipate increasing investment in generative AI by 50% or more. But too many of them invest only in AI technology, not the education to support its use, because only 23% say they will invest in AI training.

Accessible AI Learning

Amazon is not alone in investing to prepare the workforce for AI. Many companies such as PwC and Wells Fargo also invest in massive AI training initiatives for their employees. LinkedIn is also contributing by providing courses on generative AI. These courses range from basic to advanced levels, and they cover everything from “Being Responsible with Generative AI” to more advanced modules for developers.

It is essential for workers to develop effective communication skills incorporating AI so they can ensure accurate and appropriate responses and make the most of AI’s potential. Understanding the nuances of prompt engineering helps users make AI more productive and accurate. Coursera also offers a course on Trustworthy GAI that delves deeper into prompt engineering to produce more trustworthy results.

The Lesson Learned

The success of a technology depends on much more than the technology itself. It also depends on the leaders who recognize opportunities, the technologists who deliver solutions, and the workers who utilize the technology effectively. For this reason, leaders who see the potential of GAI must invest in educating their workforces on how to use the tools effectively. Similarly, technology companies must be mindful of the AI skills gap and integrate training features into AI products. This approach enables users to maximize the value of AI tools, including fine-tuning prompts for better outputs.

Companies that recognize the importance of workers’ skills in utilizing AI will remain more competitive than those that don’t. I look forward to seeing how leaders, technology providers, and workers develop the skills to become more AI-ready.

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Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders.