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Skills for a Generative AI Future of Work: Insights and Strategies

27 November 2023


The fourth webinar, organized by UNESCO's Business Council on Artificial Intelligence and Ethics, was held on September 25, 2023.


By: Natalia González Alarcón and Ángel Melguizo.

The webinar aimed to focus on skills for the future of work, identifying the urgent need for upskilling and reskilling in a global labor market driven by Generative AI.

The discussion featured insights from three private sector experts: Jorge Cella, Director of Microsoft Philanthropies for the Americas region, Natalia Mata, Global Head of the IA&Data Academy at Telefónica Tech, and Mojca Cargo, AI4I (AI for Impact) Director at the GSMA. Additionally, Ángel Melguizo, UNESCO's advisor for AI and ethics and business council coordinator, contributed closing remarks.

This post aims to summarize the key points and insights from these industry leaders.


UNESCO Montevideo


Jorge Cella from Microsoft highlighted the evolution and the democratization of AI technology, emphasizing the increased accessibility of computational power and AI tools, contrasting it with the past exclusivity of supercomputers. He underscored the importance of critical thinking in effectively utilizing generative AI, noting that although AI provides statistically probable answers, its effectiveness hinges on the user's ability to ask the right questions and interpret results. 

Cella also reassured that AI, especially generative AI, would augment rather than replace human roles, enhancing productivity across various professions. Cella illustrated how AI could augment professions like teaching and software development, enhancing productivity and effectiveness – according to some analysis, generative AI can potentially augment teachers’ skills and productivity by 45%. How? By supporting the preparation of lesson planning, curriculum development, and literacy tutorials, for example. By using Co-pilot, for a junior developer, this technology may increase productivity by 20-30%, and for a senior developer, it can actually improve it by 50 - 60%. However, they would still need to know how to code to use it properly. In summary. AI can and is going to help us, but workers have to be prepared. 


Natalia Mata from Telefónica emphasized the need for upskilling and reskilling in organizations during the AI transformation. She identified adaptability, ethics, and a culture of lifelong learning as the critical values in this shift. Mata described Telefónica’s initiatives to promote the adaptation for the future of work, which include employee training and societal actions focused on the common good and employability. She emphasized Telefónica Foundation's employment map, which analyzes job offers in real-time to identify the most in-demand professions and digital skills across different countries. Complementing this map, a virtual assistant offers personalized guidance to users. 

In summary, Natalia highlighted that the key message is that Telefónica, through insights gained from its internal projects, is actively providing both its clients and the broader public with effective solutions for embracing AI. By doing so, Telefonica is fostering the development of new skills within and beyond the company, essential for navigating the dynamic era of AI we are currently experiencing. 


Mojca Cargo from GSMA mentioned the role of GSMA in representing the interest of mobile operators globally and beginning together all of the operators regardless of emerging or developing countries. She highlighted that GSMA founded AI for Impact in 2017 in order to bring together Partners from both the private and public sectors, to commercially scale responsible AI for a better future. GSMA's efforts are to build frameworks for responsible AI and facilitate AI use cases in collaboration with a global task force. 

Cargo highlighted GSMA's commitment to capacity building, offering extensive training courses to policymakers and regulators, underscoring the significance of reskilling and upskilling in adapting to AI-driven changes in the workplace. GSMA has successfully conducted over 13,000 training days, benefiting more than 100 participants from over 160 countries, achieving a satisfaction rate of over 90%. These courses focus on real-world examples to help understand the impact of various policies and regulatory approaches on the implementation of emerging technologies.


Discussion on Upskilling and Reskilling

The panelists discussed best practices for creating inclusive programs for upskilling and reskilling and the responsibility of various stakeholders in their implementation. 

  • GSMA's Approach: Through the “Mobile for Development” team, GSMA works with developing countries to reduce inequalities by driving innovation in digital technology. They emphasized working with small and medium-sized enterprises and supporting entrepreneurs by connecting them with big techs. They work in different components, everything from capacity-building workshops, training, and innovation funds, among others, to support the "last mile." 
  • Telefónica's Strategy: Telefónica highlighted the importance of assessing skills gaps for each community and employee to prepare training programs according to the real demands and needs. She also mentioned that is critical to take into account accessibility, diversity, and inclusion aspects in training programs to consider the unrepresented groups. 
  • Microsoft's Initiative: Microsoft Philanthropies targets vulnerable populations, aiming to transform people’s potential into productivity with technology, democratizing access to generative AI. 

The webinar underscored the transformative impact of generative AI on the workforce, highlighting the need for upskilling and reskilling. The insights from Microsoft, Telefónica, and GSMA, combined with UNESCO's vision, emphasize the importance of adaptability, ethical considerations, critical thinking, and lifelong learning. The discussions underscored that while AI is set to revolutionize the job market, it is not a replacement for human skills but a tool to augment them. 

The key takeaway is the collective responsibility of governments, private sectors, academia, and individuals to embrace this change is needed to ensure that AI serves as a tool for enhancement rather than displacement, fostering a future where technology and human capabilities coexist to create a more dynamic and inclusive workforce.