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AI skills in ASEAN region spur career growth, better compensation

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Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, today released new research showing that when artificial intelligence (AI) is fully harnessed, employers across ASEAN are willing to pay higher salaries of over 36% for workers with AI skills and expertise, with workers in IT (49%), and research and development (46%) enjoying the highest pay bumps.

To better understand emerging AI usage trends and skilling needs in Asia-Pacific workplaces, AWS commissioned Access Partnership to conduct a regional study, titled “Accelerating AI Skills: Preparing the Asia-Pacific Workforce for Jobs of the Future.” Almost 6,700 workers and over 2,000 employers were surveyed across ASEAN.

On top of significant salary bumps, 97% of ASEAN workers expect their AI skills to have a positive impact on their careers, including increased efficiency, higher job satisfaction, and faster career progression. 92% of ASEAN workers indicated an interest in developing AI skills to accelerate their careers, and this interest transcends generations. Over nine in 10 Gen Z (93%), Millennial (93%), and Gen X (90%) workers want to acquire AI skills, while 86% of baby boomers—a demographic usually contemplating retirement—say they would enroll in an AI upskilling course if it was offered.

The research also found that the productivity payoff from an AI-skilled workforce could be immense for the ASEAN region. Surveyed employers expect their organization’s productivity to increase by 54% as AI technology automates repetitive tasks (69%), improves workflow and outcomes (68%), and enhances communication (64%). ASEAN workers believe AI could raise their productivity by as much as 54% too.

ASEAN organizations go all-in on AI

The speed of AI transformation happening across the ASEAN region is remarkable. 97% of employers envision their companies becoming AI-driven organizations by 2028. While most employers (96%) believe their IT department will be the biggest beneficiary, they also foresee research and development (94%), finance (93%), sales and marketing (92%), human resources (87%), and legal (81%) departments driving significant value from AI too.

Delving into key industries in the ASEAN region, the research shows the Banking and Financial Services industry is leading the charge on AI adoption, with 97% of organizations using AI solutions and tools today, followed closely by the Telecommunications industry (96%), and the Public Sector (92%).

“The AI wave is sweeping across ASEAN countries, transforming the way businesses operate and the way we work. Our research shows that society as a whole will benefit from an increased productivity boost, which will translate into higher salaries for skilled workers across the region,” said Abhineet Kaul, Director at Access Partnership. “With a growing number of organizations expected to deepen their use of AI solutions and tools, and the continual evolution of AI-driven innovations, there is a need for employers and governments to nurture a proficient workforce capable of steering current and future AI advancements.”

Generative AI—a type of AI that can create new content and ideas quickly, including conversations, stories, images, videos, music, and more—has captured the attention of the general public in the past year, and this technology is already transforming workplaces across ASEAN. Over 97% of surveyed employers and workers expect to use generative AI tools on the job within the next five years, with 76% of employers highlighting ‘increasing innovation and creativity’ as the top benefit, followed by automating repetitive tasks (66%), and improving outcomes (64%).

“Generative AI offers an unprecedented opportunity to transform businesses across all ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, and this research shows that AI skills are imperative for the future workforce. From financial services to construction and retail, industries are embracing AI at a rapid pace, which is why an AI-skilled workforce is essential to unleashing a culture of innovation and driving productivity in the region,” said Emmanuel Pillai, Head of Training and Certification, ASEAN, AWS. “At AWS, we are helping organizations like Union Bank of the Philippines to upskill their employees to be ready for a future powered by artificial intelligence.”

Bridging the ASEAN AI skills gap is mission-critical

The research reveals a looming AI skills gap which must be bridged to ensure the region is well-positioned to unlock the full productivity benefits of AI. Hiring AI-skilled talent is a priority for nine in ten (90%) ASEAN employers, of which nearly 72% can’t find the AI talent they need. The research also uncovers a training awareness gap, whereby over 81% of employers indicated that they don’t know how to run an AI workforce training program. Meanwhile, 73% of workers said they aren’t sure about relevant career paths where AI skills are useful.

The research highlights the need for greater collaboration between governments, industries, and educators to help employers across ASEAN implement AI training programs and guide workers in matching their AI skillsets to the right roles to harness their newly acquired AI capabilities.

“This report affirms the power of AI as a driver of business transformation. As businesses continue to harness the power of AI to revolutionize the workplace and as the technology becomes increasingly integrated in our everyday lives, governments have an opportunity to steer progress through smart, forward-looking policies that positively impact the role that AI will play in shaping our shared future,” said Jeff Paine, Managing Director, Asia Internet Coalition.

“In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, upskilling workers in AI, founded on ethical frameworks and principles, is not just a strategic choice, but a critical imperative for governments and organizations across Asia-Pacific,” said Dr Rupa Chanda, Director of Trade, Investment and Innovation Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). “This report shows that the future of work demands a workforce equipped with AI proficiency to navigate emerging challenges and harness opportunities for sustainable and equitable economic growth and development as well as inclusive innovation.”

Accelerating digital skills training across ASEAN

AWS has trained over 100,000 individuals in the Philippines and more than 1.2 million people across ASEAN on cloud skills since 2017. But with the rapid adoption of cloud-enabled technologies like AI, more needs to be done to upskill the workforce at scale so organizations can innovate and grow in an AI-dominated future.

In November 2023, Amazon launched the ‘AI Ready’ initiative that complements AWS’s commitment to provide free cloud computing skills training to 29 million individuals globally by 2025. Through ‘AI Ready,’ we now offer a suite of free AI and generative AI training courses, aligned to both technical and non-technical roles, so that anyone can build AI skills. This is in addition to the more than 100 courses and learning resources on AI, machine learning, and generative AI available through AWS Skills Builder and AWS Educate—our digital learning centers for beginners to advanced learners. AWS also announced new generative AI innovations at AWS re:Invent 2023, including Amazon Q—a new generative AI assistant designed for work that can be tailored to businesses.

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