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    Students say why telco AI is too dry

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    Sell them the sizzle, not the SaaS-age

    UK telco BT claims it has new insights on why students are not training for jobs in artificial intelligence (AI), despite the wealth of pay and opportunities it offers. However, the dry unimaginative scope of the study itself reveals more about why telecoms is regarded by many as a bloodless corporate ambition graveyard. BT commissioned Yonder Consultancy to find out why British industry is struggling to attract young talent for its AI roles. The findings are compiled in a report, AI skills: Motivation & AI careers myths debunked.

    Who gets excited by data?

    For an investigation into using technology that gets deep into the heart of data, the reports headline revelations were disappointing. The findings presented are an unoriginal mixture of soundbites and unimaginative opinion sampling that appears to be statistically meaningless. In BT’s study, 59% of higher education students said they were unaware of AI courses at the time of choosing their course. This is a missed opportunity, said BT, because 51% would have considered some type of AI study if they’d understood its potential and understood how the training courses could get them to that level.

    Bring the subject alive

    The study found that 38% of higher education students perceive a career in AI to be dull while 42% believe that AI qualifications wouldn’t give them the career they are looking for. This could be said for many occupations, where students are asked to consider the value of an unknown quantity. Despite the ‘bad perception’ of AI, 66% of higher education students believe the AI industry to be full of ambitious people, said the study. A huge majority (73%) believe it to be a career that would allow them to solve problems.

    See AI from a human eye

    The UK government’s national AI Strategy found that the gap between demand and supply of AI skills remains significant and growing, concluding that in order to meet demand, the UK needs a larger workforce with AI expertise. Could it be that students can’t relate to AI because the jobs are always talked about in terms of the machinery, rather than the people who use it and those who benefit from it? BT’s AI advocates enthused about disembodied aspects of the job, such as platforms, data and transformational technology. Humanity is not mentioned once in the eulogies below.  “If you are someone who likes solving problems at scale, building platforms, passionate about data and AI and crave diversity of thought, a rich and diverse set of career opportunities are waiting for you,” said Harmeen Mehta, BT’s chief innovation and digital officer.

    Telcos need to attract talent

    Adrian Joseph OBE, Managing Director, Data and AI, BT came close to mentioning the human motivation for working with AI. “AI will be the most transformational technology in the next 3-5 years and is one of the most exciting to be working in right now.  We need the right talent onboard, not just in the technology areas of AI but also in social sciences including ethics,” said Joseph.

    Show them the money

    Ashruti Rajesh, who studied English Literature at university but joined the BT enabled digital training programme FastFutures, could have revealed something interesting about the joy of analysing people or phone usage or other human dynamics. However, Rajesh described how she’d been led away from literature and into a world of data. “Working within Data & AI has enabled me to place my analytical lens away from academia and onto an area of work which is equally as broad as it is challenging and exciting,” said Rajesh, “I can see how the work I do contributes to the improvement of the business and makes a real difference to every-day processes at BT.”