How Do Younger Career Professionals Feel About AI?

20-somethings – especially younger women – don’t believe they’re receiving the artificial intelligence tools and direction they need from management.

A new study from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business shows 48% of the “professional workforce” believes they’ll be “left behind” career-wise on artificial intelligence.

The younger the worker, the more pronounced the belief that company management is not providing “opportunities to learn how to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace.”

The report, which tracked 1,200 full-time working adults in the U.S. who are in management, professional or related occupation and work with computers or technology devices, shines a light on an often-overlooked issue – how will AI impact workers with 30 or even 40 years left in the workforce if they can make it that far.

“The most senior professionals—top leadership and upper management—are more engaged in using and learning AI, more optimistic about its potential at work, and more united in their feelings that higher education should prepare new graduates to use AI in the workforce, compared to the less senior individual contributors (non-managers),” the WSU study reported.

When compared to younger employees, senior leaders were more likely to report . . .

• Being provided with AI resources or information about AI and work by their employers (68% vs. 36%).
• Using resources provided by mentors and employers to learn about AI’s use in their roles (48% vs. 25%).
• Feeling confident in explaining AI and its uses for their work (81% vs. 48%).
• Believing AI will likely cause long-lasting, transformative changes that positively impact work in their industry (74% vs. 56%) and employee retention (39% vs. 20%).

Colleges Need to Step Up

Most study recipients agreed that U.S. colleges and universities need to play a much bigger role in training students on AI skills and needed workplace experiences. 74% of professionals believe incoming college graduates “should already have experience using AI before entering the workforce,” while 88% believe U.S. colleges and universities “should provide educational opportunities for students to learn about AI and its practical uses.”

Gender-wise, female professionals told WSU that companies need to do a much better job of levelling the workplace playing field on AI training and skills.

55% of women say their organization “hasn’t provided them with any resources or information about AI,” compared to 43% of men. Additionally, “fewer female professionals say they use AI in their jobs today (41% vs. 47% of men), and fewer feel confident explaining AI and how it can be used in their work (56% vs. 71%),” the WSU study noted.

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