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Puerto Rico tackles AI-disrupted job market

Research shows that AI disruption in labor markets will be substantial, affecting most companies, industries and workers.

While artificial intelligence (AI) continues to disrupt and transform entire industries — creating a new division of labor between humans and machines — business leaders everywhere are struggling to adapt to the Age of the Augmented Human.

Not only must they find effective ways to implement AI in their operations, but they must also cope with the growing AI skills gap that could threaten the future of their organizations.

In this AI-disrupted environment, a new approach to education and human resources is critical. Colleges and universities must produce the right talent, and recruiters must be able to find it

In Puerto Rico, the Department of Labor and Human Resources is implementing AI recruitment tools, and colleges and universities are already producing suitable job candidates, a local AI tech leader told News is my Business.

The Great Disruption
Research shows that the AI disruption in labor markets will be substantial, affecting most companies, industries and workers.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that 85 million jobs may be displaced by a global shift in the division of labor between humans and machines by 2025. At the same time, some 97 million new roles would emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor.

According to WEF’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted between 2023 and 2028, and 42% of business tasks will be automated by 2027, varying from 35% of reasoning and decision-making tasks to 65% of information and data processing tasks.

Goldman Sachs estimates that 300 million jobs will be exposed to automation in the next 10 years. While generative AI could create new jobs and boost global productivity, it could also lead to a “significant disruption of the labor market,” the firm said.

Two-thirds of U.S. occupations are exposed to some degree of automation by AI, Goldman Sachs reported based on an analysis of databases detailing the task content of more than 900 occupations. Of the occupations that are exposed, 25% to 50% of their workload could be replaced.

According to an economic impact study by Cognizant and Oxford Economics, nine out of 10 U.S. jobs will be disrupted in some way by generative AI. Over the next 10 years, 9% of workers could be completely displaced by AI, with 1% potentially struggling to find new employment.

Jobs with higher levels of knowledge work may be most affected. “In the past, technology advances and automation have impacted mainly manual labor and process-centric knowledge work. Generative AI is poised to do the opposite, having a higher disruption on knowledge work,” Cognizant said.

Jobs involving credit analysis, computer programming, web development, database administration and graphic design already have a theoretical maximum exposure score of about 50%, and by 2032, as technology advances, some jobs’ exposure scores may climb to 80%, Cognizant added.

Likewise, a new analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that almost 40% of global employment is already exposed to AI and that AI will affect about 60% of jobs in advanced economies. Half of those will benefit from AI integration, thus enhancing productivity, while the other half will see AI replacing humans, shrinking labor demand, and leading to lower wages and reduced hiring, the IMF reported. By contrast, in emerging markets, AI exposure is expected to be 40%, with 26% of jobs expected to be significantly impacted.

Wider skills gap
The AI revolution is dilating an already wide global skills gap, and employers must face the challenge of finding talent in an AI-augmented labor market. Nearly 90% of tech industry leaders surveyed by Deloitte in 2022 and 2023 said that recruiting and retaining tech talent is a moderate or major challenge.

The 2024 Work Trend Index, published this month by Microsoft and LinkedIn, shows that 55% of business leaders – especially those in cybersecurity, engineering and creative design – are concerned about having enough talent to fill roles this year. Although 79% of leaders agreed AI adoption is critical to remain competitive, 60% said their company lacks a vision and plan to implement it.

Employees will have to evolve alongside AI. According to an IBM report, 40% of the workforce will need to reskill as a result of implementing AI and automation over the next three years. Of the executives IBM surveyed, 87% expect job roles to be augmented, rather than replaced, by generative AI.

However, most executives are unsure how to tackle the AI skills gap: 90% don’t completely understand their team’s AI skills and proficiency, and while 81% of IT professionals feel confident they can integrate AI into their roles right now, only 12% have significant experience working with AI, according to Pluralsight’s 2024 AI Skills Report.

Even though 95% of executives and 94% of IT practitioners believe AI initiatives will fail without staff who can effectively use these tools, only 40% of organizations have formal structured AI training and instruction.

“Until leaders understand the skills their teams have, they won’t be able to develop the skills they need to leverage their AI technology as a competitive differentiator,” Pluralsight said.

Puerto Rico talent
The labor market’s ability to progress alongside AI will rely heavily on tech education, an area in which Puerto Rico may excel.

“There’s a talent shortage everywhere, particularly for software developers and AI, and Puerto Rico is a good source of AI talent,” Carlos Meléndez, co-founder and vice president of operations for Wovenware, told News is my Business.

“We have good technical and engineering universities here, so we’re seeing really good talent coming from these schools,” he added.

According to Meléndez, the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez still holds the highest STEM reputation, but UPR Bayamón, UPR Río Piedras, Polytechnic University and Ana G. Méndez University, among others, are also producing excellent tech talent.

Puerto Rico is home to more than 100 accredited universities and colleges. These schools granted 20,500 STEM degrees in 2021, according to Invest Puerto Rico.

As more companies adopt AI, graduates will have the opportunity to work with this cutting-edge technology on the island, further enriching the talent pool, Meléndez explained. When hiring, Wovenware considers local graduates first because of their education, commitment and professionalism, he said, noting that the company is actively hiring software developers and data scientists, among others.

“There’s a lot of good talent in Puerto Rico. There’s a lot of innovation happening here. It’s not like 20 years ago when we started,” he said.

“If you look at what happened with Wovenware, a Puerto Rico-based company acquired by a public company, that moment really lets you know that the technology sector in Puerto Rico has changed. The companies that do come here find a hidden gem,” he added.

Wovenware, a software firm that provides custom and patented AI, computer vision and other custom software engineering solutions, was founded in Puerto Rico in 2003 and acquired in 2022 by Maxar Technologies, a Colorado-based geospatial intelligence company.

From left: From left: Keith Sonderling, commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Scott Sumner, technical program manager of the Department of Defense Innovation Unit; Gabriel Maldonado-González, Puerto Rico Labor Department secretary; and Dan Hopkins, vice president of Global Public Sector at Eightfold.ai, participate in a recent panel “AI and the law: Navigating global policies and regulations.”

Puerto Rico gov’t adopts AI
This month, Puerto Rico Labor Secretary Gabriel Maldonado-González participated in a forum on the impact of AI on human resources management at Cultivate 2024, an annual summit held in San Francisco by AI-powered talent platform company Eightfold.ai.

During a panel titled “AI and the Law: Navigating Global Policies and Regulations,” Maldonado-González shared insights on the legal implications of AI, its implementation in government spheres and the expectations for this technology in the labor market.

“At the Department of Labor and Human Resources, we are transforming the recruitment and selection process, empowering all employers and workers in Puerto Rico with the necessary tools to streamline and promote talent hiring, job search and professional development,” he said in a press release.

“Through our Employment and Recruitment Portal to Facilitate Labor Integration (PERFIL), powered by the Eightfold.ai platform, we are providing the latest in human resources technology. Our commitment is to continue innovating to offer better service to the public, maximizing our resources to help more people join the labor market and achieve their professional goals,” Maldonado-González added.

Author Details
Author Details
G. Torres is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She’s worked in business journalism for more than 25 years, including posts as a reporter and copy editor at Caribbean Business, business editor at the San Juan Star and oil markets editor at S&P Global Platts (previously a McGraw Hill company). She’s also worked in marketing on and off for decades, now freelancing for local marketing and communications agencies.

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