April 1

5 Essential AI Skills for Students in the Modern Workforce


The AI revolution is here to stay, and students will need some essential AI skills in order to succeed in a modern workforce enhanced by generative AI. 

This isn’t the first revolution that has transformed the workforce.

The Agricultural Revolution set humanity on a path of settled societies, effectively rescuing us from the uncertainty of a hunter-gatherer existence.  

Then, the Industrial Revolution turbocharged production and urbanization, causing our cities to grow exponentially. 

In my own lifetime, we’ve seen the transformative waves of the Internet and Social Media revolutions, which redefined global connectivity and communication.

Like these previous revolutions, generative AI is poised to radically alter the landscape of work and commerce. 

This AI revolution stands out by automating creativity and decision-making processes in ways previously thought to be the exclusive domain of us humans.

As we stand on the brink of this AI-driven transformation, it’s clear that the way humans work and engage in commerce is set to evolve in unimaginable—and exciting!—ways, just like the profound changes sparked by those pivotal revolutions of the past.

I personally believe this is not merely a shift in how we do our current office tasks.

Generative AI could spark a sociological revolution that will redefine human roles, the nature of jobs, and the dynamics of the global marketplace. 

We in the higher education space have a special part to play in how this societal transformation takes place. 

Just as with previous revolutions, higher ed will need to run ahead of the curve to help prepare new workers and leaders with essential AI skills for the demands of the future. 

The learners we are teaching this fall who will be entering, re-entering or seeking advancement in the workforce at the end of the year or in the spring must become demonstrably skilled in using generative AI. The vast majority of white-collar jobs will demand the efficiencies and flexibilities defined by generative AI now and in the future. 

As higher education institutions, we will be called upon to document and validate generative AI skills. [Emphasis added]

Inside Higher Ed

Here are five essential AI skills that higher education institutions should seek to provide students who will need to navigate their careers in this disruptive time.  

As higher ed marketers, it will be our task to demonstrate the benefits of these essential AI skills to our prospective students and their parents.

1. AI Literacy and Technical Proficiency

In our ever-evolving digital era, AI literacy and technical proficiency are essential AI skills.

Understanding AI isn’t just about being able to program or code. 

In fact, most people who leverage generative AI in the future won’t ever have to learn how to code!

The reality is that understanding AI involves a deep comprehension of how AI systems are conceptualized, developed, and implemented across various sectors. 

This knowledge empowers individuals to not only engage with AI-enhanced tools and services but also to innovate and drive advancements in this field. 

The essence of AI literacy transcends mere familiarity with technology; it involves a holistic understanding of its impact, applications, and ethical considerations.

With a trajectory pointing sharply upwards, the demand for AI proficiency is a current reality. 

The World Economic Forum projects that nearly 85% of businesses will have incorporated AI technologies by 2025, highlighting the urgent need for a workforce fluent in AI and its applications. 

This statistic is a clear call for educational institutions to prioritize AI literacy. 

By equipping students with knowledge in AI and technical proficiency, our schools can position graduates at the forefront of a technological wave that is reshaping the global economy and workforce.

2. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

In today’s information-saturated environment, critical thinking and problem-solving are essential AI skills, especially as we navigate the complexities created by artificial intelligence. 

This era, rich with data at our fingertips, challenges us not just to be passive consumers but active analysts and innovators. 

As AI systems efficiently process, analyze, and often inundate us with data, the human role shifts dramatically. 

Future workers will be called upon not only to understand this output but to interpret it, to ask the right questions, and to apply these insights in crafting novel solutions. 

This means they will need the skills to connect the details generative AI provides them in meaningful, often innovative, ways.

According to a LinkedIn report, essential AI skills like critical thinking and problem-solving are among the top soft skills sought by employers across industries. 

By creating spaces for students to engage their critical thinking skills—like debate clubs, speech classes, philosophy courses, coding challenges, and other academic challenges—higher ed institutions can prepare future workers to see the big picture rather than getting lost in the details.

3. Creativity and Innovation

AI systems can replicate tasks ranging from the mundane to the complex. 

Because of this, the uniquely human capacity for creativity and innovation is going to become a critical skill.

This isn’t just about the ability to paint a masterpiece or write a symphony; it’s about the power to see beyond the conventional, to connect disparate ideas, and to imagine what doesn’t yet exist. 

As AI takes on more of the analytical load, freeing humans from repetitive and time-consuming tasks, it provides workers with the canvas to apply their creative energies more freely and innovatively. 

They will need training and practice in launching and administrating the creative process within their future careers. 

Higher education is uniquely poised to provide the right environment for this kind of training.

Fostering creativity in an AI-driven world requires a conscious effort to step outside one’s comfort zone and engage with a broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives. 

This could mean traveling to new places, learning new languages, or diving into fields entirely unrelated to one’s own. 

Such diversity of experience enriches the mind, providing a richer palette of ideas from which to draw when faced with challenges. 

Also, interdisciplinary studies and projects encourage the cross-pollination of ideas, further igniting the innovative spark within students.

4. Emotional Intelligence

As generative AI continues its relentless march into every aspect of our working lives, a spotlight shines on the inherently human trait of emotional intelligence. 

This quality, encompassing our ability to be aware of, control, and express our emotions, as well as handle interpersonal relationships empathetically, is becoming increasingly invaluable. 

People skills are in high demand and harder to develop than technical skills… that’s even more true in an AI-driven world. AI can guide the technical aspects of something, but only humans can frame it with empathy and emotional wisdom.

Nido Qubien, president of High Point University

In an AI-driven world, where machines excel in logic and efficiency, emotional intelligence distinguishes human workers by offering what machines cannot: a deep understanding of human emotions, motivations, and the nuanced dynamics of team collaboration. 

Cultivating a high level of emotional intelligence involves more than just understanding emotions; it requires active listening, empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to manage one’s own emotions and those of others. 

Emotional intelligence is one of these essential AI skills because it enables students to be effective leaders, even in an AI enhanced world. 

5. Lifelong Learning and Adaptability

The concept of lifelong learning and adaptability has transitioned from a lofty ideal to an absolute necessity in today’s workforce. 

Years ago, marketing guru, Seth Godin, wrote a book called Linchpin in which he argued that workers would have to get creative at being the one person a company cannot afford to let go.

According to Godin, one of the major characteristics of a linchpin worker is to be a lifelong learner, always growing in skills and adapting to new competitive environments. 

The truth is echoed by Alvin Toffler’s famous assertion—that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn—has never been more relevant. 

New technologies might mean new routines, new economic realities, the rise of new opportunities and the sunset of others. College graduates need the ability to embrace the positive and ride out the difficulties that come with disruption.

Nido Qubien, president of High Point University

This adaptability isn’t just about keeping up with new technologies or methodologies. 

It’s about maintaining a state of perpetual readiness to embrace change, whether it involves pivoting careers, adopting new tools, or rethinking approaches to solve complex problems.

The colleges and universities we represent as higher ed marketers can be the training ground for this kind of adaptability by promoting the values of resourcefulness, creativity, and teachability rather than rote memorization. 

I firmly believe that liberal arts education will stage a comeback in the future. It equips students with the essential life skills—such as resilience and adaptability—that we’ve been discussing in this post.

Promoting Our Schools as Guides to the Future

Prospective students are looking for more than a degree to hang on their wall. They’re looking for a guide to the future.

If all we are is a repository of knowledge, we also will be replaced by AI technologies. We must be more than that!

To stay relevant, we’ve got to become guides to the future. At this moment, that means we have to train our students in these essential AI skills. 

As higher ed marketers, we’ve got to position our education brands as the guides our students need for their futures.

Are you and your team ready to take the next step with AI? 

Caylor Solutions now offers a 6-Session AI Masterclass that will empower your team to maximize AI for creativity, productivity and time-management. Email us at wilson@caylor-solutions.com to learn more.

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