2021 AI Predictions: Beyond upskilling

Upskilling is necessary, but it’s not nearly enough to match the demands of an AI-centred workplace. Net job growth is predicted to be a long-term impact of AI, but these jobs will be different from the ones that have existed in the past. Business leaders need to reevaluate exactly what they’ll need from the workforce of the future.

Many new jobs will affect your tech teams, and team members will need to adapt by learning new ways of working and thinking. AI model development is very different from software development. Software is usually rules-based and typically follows unchanging rules to turn data (such as invoices) into output (payments). An AI model, on the other hand, is constantly changing and works with probabilities, not certainties. It might look at both data and output to continuously adapt to new vendors and new invoice formats, and then adjust its own rules to predict the probable size of future invoices.

Ever-changing, continuously learning AI means that agile software development, with its linear, iterative approach and rigid handoffs, won’t work. Instead, AI teams have to be constantly testing, experimenting and learning—like scientists. With time, this approach will have to guide not just your AI and technology teams, but your entire workforce. Your company can get there, but it has to act now.

How companies are addressing the AI talent challenge

Develop a workforce plan that identifies new skills and roles needed as a result of AI
Implement upskilling and continual learning initiatives that include AI
Provide tools/opportunities for on-site and remote employees to apply newly acquired AI skills to their day-to-day work
Implement credentialing programs for data scientists and more advanced AI skills
Change performance and development frameworks to include AI skills such as using and managing AI systems
Expand our AI talent pipeline with internships and partnerships with community colleges and universities

Source: PwC 2021 AI Predictions
Base: 1,032
Q14. What steps has your company implemented to help manage the impact of AI on the workforce? Currently implemented

How to build an AI-ready workforce

  • Hire for the hottest jobs of the year.
    If your company is building its own AI, it needs machine learning and model ops engineers with skills that cross software engineering and data science. ML engineers help integrate, scale and deploy models. Model ops engineers monitor and improve post-deployment model performance and stability.
  • Democratize with care.
    You should certainly democratize AI so all levels of employees can reduce tedious work and increase innovation with plug-and-play AI tools. But to make AI democratization work, you’ll need to offer the right training and governance. You’ll also want to limit democratization for more sophisticated and risky models and use cases to data scientists and data engineers.

  • Build a culture that cultivates AI.
    Your people will need to work more with data and adopt an experimental mindset, questioning and continuously seeking to improve data and models. Teams will also need to accept continuous independent evaluation of their AI models—a big cultural shift for many.

Learn about the five predictions and what your company can do to make the most of AI

1. No uncertainty here: AI investments will increase

1. No uncertainty here

AI investments will increase

Learn more

2. Your strategic ally: Faster and better decisions, thanks to AI

2. Your strategic ally

Faster and better decisions, thanks to AI

Learn more

3. From risk awareness to risk action: Responsible AI’s time is now

3. From risk awareness to risk action

Responsible AI’s time is now

Learn more

4. Beyond upskilling: new talent strategies will emerge

4. Beyond upskilling

New talent strategies will emerge
5. The model is never done: The AI reorganization accelerates

5. The model is never done

The AI reorganization accelerates

Learn more

About the survey

PwC’s annual AI Predictions survey, now in its fourth edition, explores the activities and attitudes of US business and technology executives who are involved in their organization’s AI strategies. Among this year’s 1,032 survey respondents, 71% hold C-suite titles and 25% were from companies with revenues of $5 billion and up. They are from the following industries: industrial products (20%), consumer markets (20%), financial services (18%), tech, media and telecommunications (17%), health industries (17%), and energy, utilities and mining (8%). The survey was conducted by PwC Research, PwC’s global Center of Excellence for market research and insight, in October 2020.


Contact us

Scott Likens

Scott Likens

PwC Emerging Technology Leader, ­US, China, and Japan, PwC US

Anand Rao

Anand Rao

Global & US Artificial Intelligence and US Data & Analytics Leader, PwC US

Michael Shehab

Michael Shehab

PwC Labs & Tax Technology Leader, PwC US

Jennifer Lendler

Jennifer Lendler

Managing Director, Assurance, PwC US

Follow us

Required fields are marked with an asterisk(*)

How can we help you with AI?

(click all that apply)

By submitting your email address, you acknowledge that you have read the Privacy Statement and that you consent to our processing data in accordance with the Privacy Statement (including international transfers). If you change your mind at any time about wishing to receive the information from us, you can send us an email message using the Contact Us page.