Will AI drive and resolve the skills gap?

Habit of Improvement Will AI drive or resolve the skills gap?

The impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence) on office and knowledge workers is undeniable. These jobs will not that easily disappear or replaced by robots, but the skills required to remain complementary to AI will be very different.  EdTech providers claim that they rely on AI to ensure that our employees acquire those skills to remain employable. Will AI therefore not only be the catalyst of the new knowledge society, but also the solution.

About 50 per cent of workers across all sectors believe that automation will give them an opportunity to develop their skills [1]


In the Future of Jobs Survey [2] (2020), 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65% in 2018.  Furthermore, they report that, on average, those organizations provide access to reskilling and upskilling to 62% of their workforce, and that by 2025 they will expand that provision to a further 11% of their workforce. However, employee engagement into those courses is lagging behind, with only 42% of employees taking up employer-supported reskilling and upskilling opportunities.

The rise of online learning

The same report states that active learning and learning strategies are the second most important skill. Motivating employees and guiding them towards a personal growth mindset must be the first priority of organizations that want to be agile towards the future.  Therefore, an organization’s learning curricula is expected to blend different approaches – drawing on internal and external expertise, on new education technology tools and using both formal and informal methods of skills acquisition.  Learning should be integrated not only in the flow of work also in the flow of life[3].The rise of EdTech and online learning platforms in the future of learning is striking. Where only 16% of employer learning initiatives were online in 2018, a five-fold increase was noted since the outbreak of Covid-19. The pandemic was also a catalyst for individuals seeking opportunities for learning through their own initiative with a four-fold increase. However, most striking is the nine-fold enrolment increase for learners accessing online learning through government[4]

Personalized learning experiences with AI 

What have online learning platforms to offer that is so appealing for both organizations and individual learners?  For, sure there is the aspect of cost and ease-of-use. But I believe that the main reason can be found in claims providers of learning experience platforms (LXP) make regarding AI.  Are they really talking about AI, I doubt it?   

AI and machine Learning are often used interchangeably, especially for the purpose of advertising products.[4]


In brief. There are many misconceptions about what AI is and what it is not. Terms such as strong and weak AI are used to explain the differences between machine learning, neural networks and deep learning. In addition, there is the distinction that we must make between supervised and unsupervised learning. In other words, does the algorithm determine what we learn, or does it support what we learn.  Are we looking for adaptive learning based on data to create more personalized learning paths and engagement or do we risk learners to get content that is not matched with their learning needs? 

What I notice with digital learning strategies is the condition that AI supports learning. All too often, this is put forward without understanding what it really means. Here, I am in agreement with the advice of Geertrui Mieke De Ketelaere to involve AI translators in projects before decisions are made to invest in any technology.[5]

Ethical aspects of AI powered learning

The question arises whether we want algorithms and automation to determine what an interesting learning path or career path for us is. Amazon noticed that AI is not always without bias, when they collided on the ethical test after launching their recruiting tool in 2014. At first glance, this tool would be able to select the best candidates based on data without prejudice. In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable for technical jobs. Résumés that contain references that the candidate was a woman where excluded.  Even though, the résumés did not contain this data, the AI system would discriminate based on entries such as “women’s chess club captain” and it downgraded grades of two all-women’s colleges. 

Amazon has adjusted the algorithm accordingly but could not guarantee that the system would no longer discriminate in any other way without supervision. This makes us think about the degree of automation via AI that we want in learning platforms. In addition, we must not lose sight of the aspect of privacy in Europe. The debate here will certainly get going if we want to use strong AI.


To come back to my initial question, will AI drive and resolve the skills gap? I am convinced that, when we select EdTech, we should consider technologies that already have some form of AI based on validated data to improve personal learning paths and engagement.  This data will not only come from the LXP itself, but also considers various external sources such as search behaviour online, performance tracking, forums etc. 

In summary, working, living and learning will be heavily intertwined thanks to AI. It will monitor the necessary skills gaps at the Moment of Need[6] and make proposals with regard to remedial micro-learning just-in-time. This will contribute to the agility of the company that is able to respond more quickly to changes in the business and the necessary training of the employees.


[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/be/en/pages/public-sector/articles/upskilling-the-workforce-in-european-union-for-the-future-of-work.html

[2] https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

[3] https://www.mobietrain.com/e-books/

[4] https://cbook360.com/factsheet-ai-and-elearning/

[5] https://www.pelckmansuitgevers.be/mens-versus-machine.html Soon available in English/ Human versus Machine

[6] https://habitofimprovement.com/2014/08/07/building-corporate-culture-with-social-learning-in-5-moments-of-need/. https://www.5momentsofneed.com

[7] https://habitofimprovement.com/2020/11/15/learning-strategies-for-continuous-improvement/

Published by Katja Habit Of Improvement

Lifelong learning and an unstoppable drive for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Katja Schipperheijn is a digital learning strategist and internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker on learning and engagement in the connected world. Her area of expertise focuses on the interaction of people and technology to achieve sustainable growth based on commitment and well-being. She has worked for more than 15 years with tech companies and learning organizations and holds a Master Degree in Economical Science, an Executive MBA from the Antwerp Management School and Digital Learning Strategy from MITSloan

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