How AI Can Support Rapid Reskilling Under COVID-19

The skills gap – the mismatch between the skills that employers need and the skills that employees have – costs companies nearly $1 million annually. In 2018, Deloitte projected that the skills gap could damage the U.S. economy by $2.5 trillion by 2028. And that was before COVID-19 upended the economy and the labor market.

COVID-19 is affecting the skill gap problem in the following ways. In the near term it appears to be lessening the skills shortage from the employer’s perspective because more people are competing for available jobs. But in the long run it will exacerbate the skills gap. Many of the jobs that have disappeared may never come back, forcing some people to look for jobs in new sectors. The jobs that do come back will in many cases be very different, relying heavily on automation. For these reasons McKinsey has argued that companies should start reskilling their workforces now

Consider for example the impact that COVID-19 is having on the hospitality industry. Hotels are totally revamping their operations and embracing technology, to avoid risk of infection due to COVID-19. One hotel executive we spoke with reported that their guests now check-in online and never have to visit the front desk. To thrive in this changed environment, hospitality employees still require the soft skills necessary to cater to guests’ needs, but also must be able to adapt to changing work processes and new technologies.

Alelo’s Enskill platform, incorporating advanced artificial intelligence, addresses the emerging skill-gap problem by helping people quickly acquire new skills. Learners practice in simulations of real-world situations, incorporating avatars that play the roles of co-workers or customers.  It can be used to simulate new work processes as well as unusual situations. The platform automatically measures learner performance, to make sure that learners not only have the requisite product knowledge but can apply it in a variety of situations.

Looking ahead, finding the best job candidates with the right skills is going to be an increasing challenge. Hospitality executives anticipate that when they start hiring again they will be inundated with applications. Resumes can indicate prior experience but may not reveal whether the candidates can adapt to new jobs. Employers who rely on resumes when screening candidates may overlook promising candidates who are transferring from other industries. Enskill can automatically prescreen candidates based on actual demonstrated skills. This saves time for hiring managers. It gives job candidates who are transferring from other industries fair opportunities to compete for available positions.

Alelo is competing in the XPRIZE competition for rapid reskilling, to be awarded to teams that help people acquire new skills and secure new jobs. We believe our technology will make a difference for people who wish to adapt their skills to the changing job market.

About The Author

Lewis Johnson

Dr. W. Lewis Johnson is President of Alelo and an internationally recognized expert in AI in education. He won DARPA’s Significant Technical Achievement Award and the I/ITSEC Serious Games Challenge, and was a finalist in XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling. He has been a past President of the International AI in Education Society, and was co-winner of the 2017 Autonomous Agents Influential Paper Award for his work in the field of pedagogical agents. He is regularly invited to speak at international conferences for distinguished organizations such as the National Science Foundation.

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