The Jobs A.I. Can and Cannot Replace (and Why You Shouldn't Worry)

January 8, 2024 | Reskill Your Workforce | 7 min read

If you’re worried about whether or not AI will affect your job, you must reframe your thinking. It’s not an if. It’s a when.

But will it replace you — a human employee at work? The answer isn’t straight forward right now, but we’ll cover which jobs are most at risk and which are safer (and why).

Here’s the short answer: AI is already replacing some jobs or taking over some aspects of work across disciplines. In the not-so-distant future, it will play a greater role augmenting your work. Some research suggests AI will impact 80% of all roles.

Here’s the good news: The many types of AI — generative AI, machine learning, and so on — are unlikely to fully replace the lion’s share of humans anytime soon. In many cases, it’s also become a beacon of hope for those working in industries struggling with talent scarcity and a skills gap.

Artificial intelligence shows incredible promise. AI models can process information at a remarkable scale. They can complete repetitive tasks with unmatched speed and precision. They are even producing admirable creative work.

When it comes to job competition, theoretically AI is a strong candidate. But it has shortcomings — a skills gap — that we’ll cover soon.

Even still, it’s here to stay. “It's crucial to understand that AI tools aren't a fleeting trend, but rather a mainstay in our everyday professional lives. Leaders ignoring this advancement risk falling behind,” says Koma Gandy, VP of Leadership and Business Solutions at Skillsoft, in a recent blog.

While AI may seem scary at first, the more that people and organizations learn how to responsibly use the technology, the more opportunities will come from it.

But this leaves many questions unanswered. What exactly is going to change? And what jobs are most at risk? Which skills should I prioritize?

Here, we’ve collated reports and evidence that will help provide some clarity. Keep reading to find answers.

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Which Jobs Are Most at Risk of Replacement by AI?

If you or others around you are truly worried about your job being taken by AI, it’s understandable why you’d feel that way.

Reports of thousands of jobs already lost thanks to AI have circulated the web, chronicling the rapid replacement of workers and the complications that followed. Further, a Goldman Sachs report estimated that 300 million full-time jobs could be replaced too. Findings from a World Economic Forum (WEF) report shows a similar forecast.

But what’s behind these numbers? How worried should you actually be?

Let’s address this head-on.

Is AI replacing jobs? In short, yes. Some jobs are being or projected to be replaced by artificial intelligence in some capacity. However, many will not be in part or whole.

A Stanford University economist studying the impacts of AI told Business Insider that the future isn’t a jobless dystopia run by machines.

"I do not think we'll see mass unemployment," says Erik Brynjolfsson, a Stanford University economist, in the article. "But I do think we'll see mass disruption, where a lot of wages for some jobs will fall, wages for other jobs will rise, and we'll be shifting around into demand for different kinds of skills.”

More detailed projections of which jobs will experience disruption is told in the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report, which surveyed 803 companies, representing 11.3 million workers.

According to the report, technological change and adoption are the primary reasons why these are the 10 fastest declining jobs:

  1. Data entry clerks
  2. Administrative and executive secretaries
  3. Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks
  4. Security guards
  5. Building caretakers and housekeepers
  6. Cashiers and ticket clerks
  7. Material-recording and stock-keeping clerks
  8. Assembly and factory workers
  9. Post service clerks
  10. Bank tellers

Part of the reason why these jobs are phasing out is simply because of generative AI’s ability to automate and accomplish an array of tasks quickly and accurately.

The range of its ability is vast, but it’s important to know that tools like these still benefit from (and often require) human input, oversight and judgement — especially to ensure ethical use or adoption.

For the tasks that generative AI excels at, it’s work taken away from a human. But that can be a good thing and here’s why: It’s an opportunity to reskill or upskill in areas that are highly in demand today but suffer talent shortages or gaps.

Consider this from the Goldman Sachs report: “The good news is that worker displacement from automation has historically been offset by creation of new jobs, and the emergence of new occupations following technological innovations accounts for the vast majority of long-run employment growth.”

Although AI shows great promise, a major hurdle in the trek forward is how people feel today: Worried. “Leaders must provide opportunities for talent to interact with AI comfortably, helping to mitigate this fear, fostering intrigue, and positioning AI as a valuable co-pilot rather than an intimidating concept,” says Skillsoft’s Gandy.

Today, the knowledge and skills gap in AI is significant, creating an urgent need for training. For those employees most at risk of losing work to AI, the onus shifts to leaders and employers to help their workforces adapt. Taking no action will allow fears to fester.

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AI Has a Skills Gap Too. Which Jobs Are ‘Safest?’

While AI is great at many things, it has shortcomings that separate people from machine.

The WEF report shows which jobs are growing the fastest and are insulated from replacement by AI.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Agricultural equipment operators
  2. Heavy truck and bus drivers
  3. Vocational education teachers
  4. Mechanics and machinery repairers
  5. Business development professionals
  6. Building frame and related trades workers
  7. University and higher education teachers
  8. Electrotechnology engineers
  9. Sheet and structural metal workers, moulders and welders
  10. Special education teachers

AI can’t fully replace a human’s judgement or attention to the nuances of the work involved in the roles listed. Further, any job that requires a high degree of social interaction or emotional intelligence, creativity or innovation, and similar skills are further from replacement too.

Power skills like these are either at the fringe of or beyond AI’s abilities today, given the very human nature of the role. What’s more, a recent Skillsoft report shows a growing importance on power skills — which AI can actually help sharpen.

Skills like team or interpersonal communication, empathetic leadership, and resilience are deciding factors for potential job candidates and deemed among the most significant for those in leadership. The WEF report also highlights skills like these as growing in demand, with “creative thinking” at the top.

These skills are innately human and harder to program. That’s why AI isn’t a foolproof replacement. And it’s not meant to be. That’s why you see terms like “copilot” or “agent” used to describe the AI-human relationship.

It’s a tool that can help when it’s needed and make room for the most important work yet to be done.

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AI Presents Opportunities for Growth

A Pew Research report shows the mixed feelings U.S. workers have toward AI. However, in those fields with more exposure to AI, the more people feel the technology will help not hurt.

While it’s understandable to be uncertain, people shouldn’t let the anxiety around AI overshadow the benefits that will come from it. AI will unburden teams that are short on resources and talent. This will help alleviate the consequences of their situation: the stress, the gaps, and the over-whelming feelings that come with a mountainous workload.

This is also true for those who may feel most threatened. By leaning on AI to cover the work that it’s best suited for, it allows humans to take on work that they’re best suited for.

Instead of data entry or administrative work, what are the opportunities for internal career mobility? What aspirations do those employees have? What skills do they possess today that could help them upskill into a new role?

Investing in workforce transformation will benefit those individuals who may fear replacement the most, while complementing an organization’s ongoing development strategy.

The point is: There shouldn’t be fear and anxiety about this.

It’s a time of opportunity.

In the coming year, all organizations must make concerted efforts toward writing a formal policy, educating their workforce about these technologies and the implications they may have for their jobs. Doing so will help dispel fears that some hold, and even more importantly, it’ll help show how AI can support workers.

As you consider what the future holds for you or your workforce, it’s important to consider where AI’s aptitude starts and stops.

Skillsoft can help. We’ve been prepared for this shift for a long time coming, as we’ve hired and upskilled our teams internally to infuse AI into our platform and training. What’s more, we offer training on the many facets of AI for both technical and non-technical learners, including on popular tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Dive into our training catalog to see what’s available and reach out to our team to learn more.