Developers should view AI as a “golden opportunity” and not a destroyer of jobs

Two Rust developers discussing a software development project in an open plan office space.
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Amidst the doom and gloom about AI destroying jobs, a more optimistic view is starting to emerge, with workers urged to take advantage of the opportunities.

A UK government report last year found that between 10% and 30% of jobs could be lost to automation while similar research from Goldman Sachs in early 2023 found up to 300 million roles could become obsolete due to AI.

However, earlier this year, Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, told the BBC that AI will not be a “mass destroyer of jobs”, suggesting that enterprises and employees alike adopt a more optimistic outlook on the use of the technology.

"I'm an economic historian, before I became a central banker. Economies adapt, jobs adapt, and we learn to work with it," he said. "And I think, you get a better result by people with machines than with machines on their own. So I'm an optimist."

Bailey said nearly one-third of businesses had told the bank that they'd made significant AI investments in the past year, and that they expected to see the benefits to productivity soon.

Certainly, AI jobs are on the increase, and AI skills are in hot demand amidst concerns that the pace of innovation in this space will place significant pressure on talent pipelines both in the UK and further afield.

Recent research from AWS and Access Partnership, for example, found that some employers are willing to pay a 31% premium for IT workers with AI expertise.

AI skills in sales, marketing, and finance attracted 27% higher salaries, while business operations, legal, and human resources brought salary jumps of 26%, 25%, and 24% respectively.

Major tech companies including Google, AWS, and Microsoft have all outlined plans to invest heavily in the coming years to support AI skills training.

Last year, Microsoft said it planned to invest billions in both expanding data center infrastructure and supporting skills development across the UK, while Google revealed plans in February to spend millions of dollars on skills training across Europe.

A key recurring concern among some parts of the tech workforce, specifically those in developer roles, has been the potential for AI to render aspects of their roles obsolete.


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Succeed in an AI-enabled world

Some industry stakeholders have warned that increasingly powerful code generation tools could eventually replace human workers, but there’s little evidence so far to suggest this will happen.

Jane Gormley, director of employer engagement at Code Institute, said developers should instead view the heightened demand for AI talent as an opportunity to capitalize on this latest technology trend and build relevant, future-proof skills.

"Demand for AI knowledge and skills is on the rise across many sectors. The discourse surrounding AI as a ‘destroyer of jobs’ has rightfully been put to bed by a key institution. Whilst there may be some change, the new opportunities arising from AI will outpace the negatives," she said.

"In the developer space, engineers will see an uptick in demand for expertise in artificial intelligence. More investment in AI means that developers will be needed to build and maintain powerful AI infrastructure and products – either as part of, or a core responsibility of their daily roles."

There are calls for the government to do more to support training to safeguard jobs in the era of AI.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank, for example, recently warned that without government action and with companies left to their own devices, around 7.9 million jobs could be lost across the country with no compensating gains to GDP.

The IPPR called for the government to develop a job-centric industrial strategy for AI, with tax incentives or subsidies to encourage the use of AI to enhance jobs rather than displace them.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.