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November 03, 2017
Becoming the next Silicon Valley? Building the future workforce for AI
By: Nathan Giles

I love the origin stories of some of the world’s technology giants. Together with Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs started the Apple empire from his parents’ garage in Los Altos, California. This story has a mythic quality now because technology and talent rarely come together like they did in Silicon Valley in 1976.

Flash forward to 2017, and our cities are on the cusp of a major technology revolution—artificial intelligence (AI). We can’t talk about the future of AI in cities without discussing its impact on the workforce. Workers across sectors fear that AI means that the robots are coming for their jobs. But AI does not have to be a job killer. Some occupations will fade away, it’s true. However, AI will augment workforces and provide more engaging work for humans in both private sector and municipal positions by taking away mundane or routine tasks.

AI will create new occupations and jobs too. There will be caretakers who tend to the machines and teach them to recognize patterns in data. Not to mention a huge need for more data scientists, statisticians and coders. So how can city governments plan for these major workforce changes? Training and reskilling the current workforce and preparing the future workforce are non-negotiable. Many workers will welcome reskilling. Consider that 63 percent of US adults that we surveyed say that developing talent within the organization will increase job satisfaction. And 60 percent said it would increase the attractiveness of working for the public sector.

Reskilling should go beyond developing specific technical skills to educate people on how humans and machines can best work together. Reskilling must also touch the talent pipeline, reaching back to the education system to build skills early. It should be continuous to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.

City governments will have to compete with the private sector for the new advanced technology workers needed for AI. To do this, cities must plan now to rebrand themselves to attract this group. Denver, Phoenix and Atlanta are among cities doing this in the United States, while Manchester, England is evolving its industrial heritage to become a digital hub. I believe that cities that do not start this work urgently could go the way others have in the past when a burgeoning industry passes them by, or a traditional one dies out.

Becoming a city that attracts AI talent will require more than cool social media marketing campaigns. It will mean economic development and urban renewal initiatives that create sustainable cities where people want to settle—affordable housing, good schools, reliable public transportation, arts and entertainment and more. Cross-sector partnerships with universities, technology companies and entrepreneurs will help to support this vibrant city brand.

I don’t believe that the next Silicon Valley will be born from happenstance in a backyard shed. The cities that AI talent flock to will actively cultivate an environment that appeals to them and meets the workforce’s needs, and be willing to work very differently to do so.

I would be interested your views. Please leave a comment or explore other content that covers issues from a cities perspective https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-topic-high-performance-smart-cities.

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