BT reveals huge potential for UK undergraduates in global AI industry

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Despite analyst predictions that the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry will be worth £49 billion globally in 2022, a new in-depth study by BT has uncovered a lack of awareness amongst UK students about the opportunity to pursue qualifications in AI related courses.

Where almost three in five (59%) higher education students said they were unaware of AI courses at the time of choosing their course, over half (51%) revealed that they would consider studies centred around AI in the future, once they had understood and received more information about what the courses entail.

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The findings are revealed in BT’s report, AI skills: Motivation & AI careers myths debunked, which was commissioned in partnership with Yonder Consultancy, to understand how to grow and retain AI talent in the UK.

Identifying additional challenges connected to the attraction of talent to the UK AI industry, the study found that 38% of higher education students perceive a career in AI to be dull while 42% believe that AI qualifications wouldn’t give them the career they are looking for.

Despite these perception issues, 66% of higher education students believe the AI industry to be full of ambitious people, and almost three quarters (73%) believe it to be a career that would allow them to solve problems.

Harmeen Mehta, Chief Innovation and Digital Officer, BT, said: “Having graduated in AI more than two decades ago and lived through the AI winter, I am so excited to see how AI is changing the world and how we live! If you are someone who likes solving problems at scale, building platforms, passionate about data and AI and crave diversity of thought, a rich and diverse set of career opportunities are waiting for you.”

Adrian Joseph OBE, Managing Director, Data and AI, BT, said, “AI will be the most transformational technology in the next 3-5 years and is one of the most exciting to be working in right now. There’s no limit to what we can achieve with AI outperforming us in many areas already, though we clearly have some opportunity to communicate this better to students. We need the right talent onboard, not just in the technology areas of AI but also in social sciences including ethics. It’s more important than ever to ensure that careers in data and AI are as inclusive and accessible as possible, to create a bigger, more diverse and quality pipeline of AI talent”.

Ashruti Rajesh, a current Data Analyst graduate at BT, took an alternative route into a career into AI. After studying English Literature at university, I joined the BT enabled digital training programme – FastFutures – which gave me exposure to a career in Data. I then completed a Data bootcamp led by CodeFirstGirls, sponsored by BT, which secured my role as a Data Analyst at BT today. Working within Data & AI has enabled me to place my analytical lens away from academia and onto an area of work which is equally as broad as it is challenging and exciting. I can see how the work I do contributes to the improvement of the business and makes a real difference to every-day processes at BT.”

BT is committed to driving data, AI & digital skills in the UK as it embarks on its own ambitious plans to make the company an AI-led business. As part of its commitment here, BT will launch the Digital Campus, with Data & AI being a key vertical of the initiative that will train and upskill current BT talent – and eventually contribute to wider upskilling in the market. In continuing to support the UK’s efforts to plug the digital and AI skills gap, BT will host an event in the Autumn which will comprise of talks, guest speakers and will provide a wealth of information for young people thinking about a career in AI.

The UK Government’s national AI Strategy found that the gap between demand and supply of AI skills remains significant and growing, concluding that in order to meet demand, the UK needs a larger workforce with AI expertise.


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