Productivity booms in sectors driving AI adoption, prompting a surge in upskilling efforts

Cyber security leadership team discussing an incident in an open plan office space in low light.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s vital that employees focus on AI training and upskilling according to a new report from PwC, which suggests that the sectors most exposed to AI are seeing flagging job prospects while the demand for AI skills is increasing.

Though there is still job growth in AI-exposed sectors, job openings in less exposed sectors have grown 46% faster, while jobs requiring AI skills are outpacing the market as a whole. 

This, the report stated, reaffirms the need for workers to “adapt and build new skills” for the changing employability market, most crucially in the area of AI. 

According to a previous survey from PwC which this report cited, 64% of UK CEOs said that the AI boom will require most of their workforce to develop new skills over the next three years. 

“Historically big leaps in technology presage changes in the labour market … Our analysis suggests that the menu of skills required by employers in occupations exposed to AI is changing about 25% faster than those which aren’t,” Barret Kupelian, chief economist at PwC UK, said.

“As pickup of AI continues, this trend is likely to intensify, creating new roles whilst also reducing demand for some skills that can be done more efficiently using AI,” he added. 

Between 2012 and 2023, UK job postings with AI skills requirements such as machine learning (ML) grew at nearly four times the speed of other roles, slightly more than the global average.

Of a thousand UK job posts in 2012, three required AI skills, compared to nine out of a thousand job posts a decade later. 

“With the technology growing rapidly, … it’s key that current and future workers are upskilled for the AI era to ensure that technology is used responsibly and that the benefits are spread equitably,” Kupelian said. 

Upskilled workers stand to gain a premium in areas of demand 

The report revealed that, on average, UK employers are willing to pay a premium of 14% for those with specialist AI training and skills.

This aligns with research from AWS and Access Partnership released earlier this year, which suggested that employers were willing to pay a 31% premium for workers with relevant AI experience. 

Some industries stand to gain significantly, with job postings for AI-skilled lawyers carrying a 27% wage premium and job postings for AI-skilled database designers or administrators carrying a 58% premium. 

The UK is in second place on the world stage when it comes to such premiums, with the US offering an average wage premium of 25%, while Canada, Singapore, and Australia all trail behind. 


Whitepaper cover with image of data lines travelling through servers and title and contributor images above

(Image credit: Dell Technologies)

Improve performance and reduce operational costs

“Countries and sectors that have a high demand for AI skills tend to see higher wage premiums, especially if there is a scarcity of skilled professionals,” Mehdi Sahneh, senior economist at PwC UK, said.

By contrast, areas with a greater level of AI-trained employees may see lower premiums, according to Sahneh, though this could be a positive trend. 

“Although on the surface lower wage premiums may sound less favourable, all else being equal, they suggest a balance between labour supply and demand, and could potentially foster greater AI adoption and innovation over the long term,” Sahneh said.  

AI-exposed industries see huge productivity gains

Despite job requirements being in flux in these industries, the sectors most exposed to AI are seeing huge increases in their rates of productivity. 

Areas of employment where AI can be readily used for certain tasks are experiencing a productivity growth of nearly five times, according to the report. 

In the UK, this productivity uptick - concentrated in areas such as financial services, IT, and professional services - is “marginally above” the global average, and the PwC report states AI could start to fix “long-term productivity” across the country. 

“AI could therefore help to bridge the gap with other nations, leading to increased prosperity and better living standards,” the report stated. 

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.