Category Archives: Digital learning

Mind the gap: digital skills in the age of artificial intelligence

By Adriana Hamacher

Digital Skills Gap

Esther Animashaun was working as a sales associate for stationery retailer Moleskine when opportunity came knocking. Having dropped out of college uninspired by what she was learning, Esther still refused to give up on a career in IT. But she was after something different and one day she found it via an apprenticeship provider. Esther is now working to plug a gaping hole in the UK’s IT skills pipeline, the result of burgeoning demand for artificial intelligence technology. AI investment is gaining momentum; 42 per cent of companies are planning to ramp up spending over the next five years and one in five has recently done so, according to a new survey by the Confederation of British Industry in association with IBM.

The benefits are irresistible. AI technologies promise to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs, they also upgrade legacy IT systems, improve data and analytics, enhance client services and, as a result, increase revenue generation.

Experts estimate that over the next six months business leaders plan to hire more programmers, project managers and apps developers. And within the next three years the emphasis will be on finding data analysts, cyber security experts and artificial intelligence and automation specialists.

The only problem is that workers like Esther are thin on the ground. According to MPs, the UK will have a shortfall of 745,000 workers with the necessary digital skills by the end of the year and looming immigration controls are doing us few favours.

Highly prized

Digital skills are generally understood to be the ability to use computers and digital devices to access the internet; the ability to code or create software and to critically evaluate media. The Tech Partnership, the UK’s vehicle for action on digital skills also highlights information management, communication, problem solving and creativity. These, they say, are the skills most highly prized by employers.

What’s meant by artificial intelligence also needs definition. AI is often used very loosely to describe various technologies capable of addressing operational efficiency and other needs. They fall — broadly — into three business categories:

  • Robotic Process Automation: to replace manual handling of repetitive and high-volume tasks.
  • Machine Learning: using vast amounts of data to train a system and fine tune it (Deep Learning is a specific method of machine learning and has been a game-changer in this space).
  • Cognitive Analytics: making deductions from vast amounts of data, using processes that mimic the human brain.

Unusually for someone working in a field as specialised as AI, Esther has no university degree. She and four male colleagues have been hired by back-office solutions company Voyager to bolster its Robotic Process Automation (RPA) development team, in response to competition from offshore service providers. RPA is, in the short term, expected to account for a large slice of AI spending, particularly within the financial sector where Voyager operates. The apprentices are learning to model business processes and training robots to interact with a wide range of systems. They work for the company for four days a week and study for the remainder.

Insurance provider Aviva is another example of a company that’s investing heavily in AI and associated technologies. Aviva’s technology hub for product development has radically streamlined customer services, but it’s also meant changing skill set requirements for the firm; rather than recruiting for actuaries, Aviva now can’t hire enough data scientists.

Increasing requirements

Aviva’s experience reflects what is likely to be a common pattern: a focus by future thinking employers and employees on those areas which the machines won’t replace. In the age of AI, machines won’t take over the digital world (studies indicate that only 5% of jobs can be completely automated), but the scope of that world will radically increase.

The financial sector is a pertinent example. Management consultancy Opimas forecasts that, by 2025, AI will lead to around 230,000 less jobs in the sector. Asset management will shrink the most, with around 90,000 people being replaced by machines. On the other hand, close to 30,000 new jobs will be created for technology and data providers, in response to the financial industry’s increasing requirements and demands.

Thus AI can be viewed as a building block for digital skills. Job candidates, like Esther, who have passion and a desire to learn (rather than those with highly-defined technical skills) may be the best way to bridge the gap and to avoid job automation for tech roles in the future, with training on the job increasingly prevalent. A survey by recruitment agency Mortimer Spinks indicates that 33 per cent of new tech and digital workers enter the sector through cross-training via unofficial means, such as shadowing or learning in their own time. Paul Church, director at Mortimer Spinks, warns: “If you don’t have a desire to learn, you are going to get left behind.” The research also found that 76 per cent of non-technical or non-digital workers would consider a career in tech or the digital sector, which indicates a willingness to re-skill.

The UK government is also plugging the digital skills gap by introducing new training measures. Five international tech hubs in emerging markets are being created to develop partnerships between local tech firms and UK companies, encouraging collaboration on skills, innovation, technology and research. The government’s digital strategy, introduced earlier this year, promises four million free digital skills training opportunities. The government has partnered with a number of leading companies such as Lloyds, Barclays and Google pledging to provide face-to-face training for individuals, charities, small and medium businesses and children.

But experts warn that, despite their increasing availability, public and private incentives may not be enough to plug the gap without a great deal more funding, and current training and learning systems will not match needs within a decade. There are also people who are incapable of or simply uninterested in self-directed learning.

In fact, alarm bells are ringing about the disappointing number of children, particularly girls, signing up to do the UK’s new computer science GCSE. A couple of years ago, in response to concerns about the changing technology landscape, the government made it mandatory for children aged between five and 16 to learn computational thinking as part of the computing curriculum, but many say this has not been as effective as hoped, pointing to an unimaginative syllabus and poorly equipped staff.

Consensus is growing that what the IT sector needs is nothing less than a make-over, a marketing campaign portraying a career in tech as something that is fun and inclusive, emphasising soft skills — creativity, analytical thinking, problem-solving, multitasking, verbal and written communications — to attract people who can then be trained in the technical aspects of the role. Especially for girls, who often view tech as a male-dominated and uninteresting sector, showcasing those who have taken an alternative route into technology would provide encouragement and inspiration.

As a young, black, female working in a male-dominated, highly-lucrative and rapidly-changing sector, Esther can anticipate yet more career changes. She’d make an ideal STEAM ambassador; a super role model.


Lumesse Learning grows team in response to continuing success

By Trudi Taylor

Lumesse Learning, the learning division of Lumesse, a global leader in talent solutions, welcomes new hires as part of a strategically significant round of appointments.

Andy Mechelewski, previously at Ashridge Virtual College, takes up the role of Content Partner Manager. Andy will be responsible for the off-the-shelf (OTS) learning portfolio, working with Lumesse’s existing network of global partners as well as acquiring new partners. Andy has a strong pedigree in the OTS space and will help drive growth in OTS in response to the increasing demand for curated learning experiences.

Andy joins recent appointment Jake Maxwell (previously at Brightwave and Learning People), hired as Channel Partner Manager to extend the business unit’s footprint beyond direct sales. Jake is already making great traction with our existing resellers as well as identifying new partners who are excited about the prospect of reselling our Learning Gateway and CourseBuilder products.

Together these two appointments evidence a strategic investment in growth that is building upon recent successes and looking to develop and promote Lumesse Learning’s strong product portfolio.

Andrea Miles, General Manager for Lumesse Learning, said: ‘These are exciting times for us, as we embrace new product developments and expand our reach into the market on a number of different fronts. I am delighted to welcome such professional and passionate individuals to the team to help us fulfill this vision. Ours is a people business, and it’s a tribute to the incredible team already here, and the unique working culture they help us sustain, that we are able to attract such a high calibre of people who will drive our future success.’


An aligned content development strategy

By Mark Probert

I am sure this may well ring true for many of you reading as it’s an issue I am seeing with some customers I work with. These customers have all invested heavily in a varied and effective learning catalogue but have done this in quite a detached and unstructured way. This has resulted in the following challenges: Continue reading


Ways you can use xAPI right now to enhance learning

By Sven Ove Sjølyst

In this pre-recorded video Sven Ove Sjolyst, Product Manager for CourseBuilder gives a walk-through of new improvements and features of CourseBuilder, with the spotlight particularly on xAPI implementation.

xAPI adds a whole new dimension when creating learning content, more than was achievable with SCORM; allowing a much richer experience and more micro level view of how users are interacting with content.

This Vlog explains the exciting changes that are now possible.

 


How UX took over the world

By Tony Bartholomew

Don’t we all love Buzzword Bingo?  ‘Learner experience design’ is one of the newer buzzwords in our industry – and ‘Learner Experience Designer’ is the hot new job title. The emergence of these terms marks a subtle but important shift in thinking: from designing chunks of instructional content, to designing an experience for the learner. I’m not at all cynical about this trend. I think it’s a long overdue development for the practice of learning design and for our industry as a whole. But I’m pretty sure I know where it came from. Continue reading


Lumesse Learning named ‘Strategic Challenger’ in Fosway 9-Grid

By Harriet Croxton

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND & HOVE, ENGLAND. 9 February 2017. Lumesse Learning, the learning division of Lumesse, the global leader in talent solutions, has been named a Strategic Challenger in analyst Fosway’s 9-Grid, in the new category of Digital Learning. This showing indicates solid performance and outstanding potential, according to Fosway’s multi-dimensional model. Continue reading


How L&D can help line managers to support learning

By Duncan Barrett

website_blog_300x170While many organisations are looking at how best to support a culture of learning and meet the needs of self-directed learners, many are still dealing with the challenge of engaging employees around content that needs to be delivered and understood by its workforce, whether for compliance or operational reasons.

For L&D teams facing this challenge, the most important ally must surely be the line manager.

We explore these themes in our webinar: Learning in the Line: L&D, line managers & the self-directed learner 

Line managers form a silent (or not so silent) army of support that is ready, willing and able to guide their teams in meeting the challenges of uncertainty and complexity that are sweeping through the world of work as we know it … Well – something along those lines!

In truth, line managers are pulled in multiple directions to meet the needs of the organisation as well as their team.

Continue reading


Does your elearning authoring tool do this? CourseBuilder update vlog

By Harriet Croxton

cb-update-webinar-v2Studies indicate that about one fifth (20%) of the population has some kind of disability. The number of disabled users in the workforce is rising in the UK, and more and more organisations now have positive policies on accessibility for digital learning materials.

One key area is providing support for the visually impaired; making it easier for them to use screen-readers and other aids. Every employer needs to ensure that online learning resources carry all the relevant accessibility features. Continue reading


11 ways to empower the self-directed learner

By John Helmer

Graphic ident for research report Me Time: Empowering the Self-Directed Learner Recently our Head of Transformation, Rachel Cook, contributed a piece to this blog about how changes in the pattern of employment are shaking up the employer/employee relationship. One of the most interesting aspects of Rachel’s work for us was how these changes ­– momentous enough to get analysts talking in terms of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – are highlighting the phenomenon of the self-directed learner.

Aware that this is a source of much debate for the learning and development clients we work with, and in many cases a pain point, we wanted to know more.

We reached out to our research partners, Towards Maturity, for help in investigating this phenomenon, and commissioned a report written by Peter Williams, editor of e.learning age entitled Me Time: Empowering the Self-Directed Learner that you can download for free. The findings were fascinating. Continue reading


The uberisation of work

By Rachel Cook

uberisationChanges in the pattern of employment will have a significant impact on learning, recent research indicates. In many cases these effects are being felt already. L&D professionals need to make preparations now, so as not to be caught on the back foot.

Seismic changes are shaking the world of work. A shift is seen in the relationship between organisations and the people who work for them, typified by the disruption wrought in the transportation industry by Uber. Uber, a ride sharing app enabled by GPS and mobile technology, is now starting to dominate the US business travel market. According to the Economist and Certify, in the first quarter of 2016, Uber and Lyft accounted for 46% of business ‘ground transportation’ trips in America. Traditional competitors (notably, taxi firms) have been displaced with surprising speed. It is not just the technology that is causing this market disruption, but the business model used by the company. Uber has a permanent employee base which represents its core beliefs and practices but also a huge flexible component. Continue reading