Upskilling is as important as attracting top AI talent

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Interview with Rob McCargow, PwC UK’s AI Programme Lead, published in AI Business on January 11, 2018

Recruitment, strategy, and upskilling are intertwined problems when it comes to addressing the AI skills gap. Just days after the launch of their specialist drone unit [paywall], AI Business met with Rob McCargow, AI Programme Leader for PwC UK, at the firm’s expansive headquarters in London. As well as being part of the industry committee for The IEEE Global Initiative on the Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, McCargow is a member of the advisory board for the UK All-Parliamentary Party Group on AI, which first convened in January 2017 to explore the implications of AI within UK industry and society. He works with several hundred global stakeholders across a variety of disciplines to look at the big ethical and practical issues pertaining to the impact of AI.

As we walked through the bustling lobby of the PwC offices, McCargow explained that, in the short term, firms need a very distinctive proposition as to why they want top talent to come and solve—but, more importantly, they also need to have an interdisciplinary team able to examine every single lens that applies to an AI project. “Whether this involves effectively communicating your ambitions to your workforce and your customer base, so they understand what you’re trying to achieve with AI, or ensuring that the project is going to be undertaken in a way that is regulatory compliant, you can really make the case that, across the suite of business, you need people that are able to understand AI opportunities to a pretty high level of definition.”

In some regards, this will be made possible in 2018 by shifts and changes to the quality and accessibility of AI solutions—a trend McCargow believes will ‘absolutely’ accelerate the ability of businesses to grow bases of AI expertise and talent. “If you look at the stack for the major platforms at the moment, they don’t necessarily require a PhD in machine learning to be able to configure and start applying AI to business problems today,” he said. “You can start seeing the UI in these products becoming far more user-friendly and business-focused, which does then allow you to look at your workforce as a whole.”

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