Using AI in Further Education

Published on Oct 23, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

Whatever your question is, ChatGPT has the answer. So, what are we looking for in humans if AI technologies are becoming a worthy replacement for so many human actions? What human skills and capabilities are still valid today and will still be needed in a fully AI-driven future?

The Lightcast team recently attended the FE Collective conference in Birmingham, where our Head of Global Research, Elena Magrini, presented a session about the latest trends in AI skills and jobs. Understanding digital skills trends is a crucial step for educators in truly leveraging the power of AI - and ensuring learners are well-equipped to join an increasingly digital workforce. 

This article highlights some key topics discussed at the conference, including the challenges and opportunities of AI in Further Education and data-driven insights into the demand for AI in the UK labour market. 

Lightcast data can offer you a highly granular view of the specific AI skills your local employers are requesting and the human skills needed to complement AI-based tasks. Get in touch with us to discuss our data or explore further research on this topic. 

First things first: should AI be used in education?

As with any new technology, AI raises both excitement and concern. The blur around how far AI can go, potentially displacing jobs and eroding human agency, is the biggest elephant in the room in Further Education. But there is also a question of trust: how much should we trust AI to deliver the most accurate and relevant content? And how much should we invest in it to ensure that it produces the results we want?

Regardless of its potential challenges, its rising adoption is evident, and there are two significant questions that educators have to answer: 

  • What learning processes could benefit from AI?

  • How can students be prepared to take AI roles and fulfill new skills demands?

The benefits of leveraging AI in education 

As the questions above tell us, AI can be used in two significant ways within further education: the improvement of internal processes and the restructuring of curriculum to best match courses to the skills demands of employers. In terms of leveraging AI internally, such technologies can be used to speed up processes such as building learning content and conducting assessments. AI can generate an on-demand, unlimited number of informative questions personalised to students and subjects. 

Furthermore, AI has registered an accuracy of 95% when assessing exams, meaning only 1 in 20 questions are marked incorrectly. The enablement of personalisation at scale for students offers the potential for higher productivity and quality within education systems. There is no right or wrong way to embrace AI in internal operations yet - it is still very much in a testing phase. 

Preparing students for an AI future 

To get ahead and keep updated with market demands, Further Education and training providers need to adapt their curriculum to an agile model. This is easier said than done in a fractioned and devoluted sector, but if we don’t know how the AI market is evolving, how can we possibly start embracing AI in curriculum planning?

Demand for AI skills tripled in the decade up to 2022, - and it continues to grow at full strength. Lightcast data shows an impressive upward trend in the demand for AI skills and jobs across sectors - not just traditionally tech-based industries such as IT. Although Information and Communication show the highest share of job postings requiring at least one AI-related skill in 2021 (a share of 3.2%), even customer-driven sectors such as Accommodation and Food Services or Human Health and Social Work activities are requesting AI skills in their job postings. 

And there is good news for future workers: AI jobs are generally well-paid and high-value. Think of a Marketing Specialist, for instance. Job postings advertising this role and requesting at least one AI skill offer, on average, £14,800 more than the role without AI skills requirements.

Demand for AI is still very concentrated in large, metropolitan cities in the UK. With its world-renowned university and science park employing over 7,000 people, Cambridge is currently the UK hotspot for AI. AI skills are mentioned in 2.6% of this city’s job postings. London comes second, with AI skills being present in 2% of its job postings, and Oxford takes third place, with 1.9% of its job postings mentioning at least one AI skill. 

And it’s not just AI skills educators need to be teaching. Some of the most sought after common skills for AI roles in the UK include communication, teamwork and problem-solving. Equally important are non-AI specialised skills such as Python (the most requested technical skill in AI job postings in 2021), Data Science, and SQL. Preparing students for an AI-driven world of work goes way beyond introducing AI in the curriculum - and requires an understanding of all the other common and specialised skills that come with it. 

Making data-driven decisions 

So, what can we take from this data? Firstly, the global adoption of AI in the workforce shows the pressing need for students to be equipped with AI and complementary skills to improve their career opportunities. Diving deeper into Lightcast data, we can see exactly what kind of AI skills local employers are requesting the most, as well as the emerging AI roles. Based on these trends, educators can establish a plan to incorporate the most in-demand AI skills in their local area into their curriculum, knowing their decisions are backed by data and will future-proof their learning content. 

With employers increasingly focused on skills rather than qualifications, the Further Education sector will find itself needing to embrace a more flexible, skills-based model. This is, however, a win-win situation. Not only does it make it more likely that employers will get the skills they need to succeed, but the skills-driven model makes for far greater agility in learning, so ensuring the place of Further Education as the sector of the future.

If you want to learn more about Lightcast data and our solutions, message us below. 

Ready to Solve Problems Together?