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This blog post is based on our recent Coffee Mornings episode 19, which is now live. To immerse yourself in the full discussion, you can watch the episode or tune into the audio version on our Spotify channel provided below.

Introduction: AI meets Gen Z

In Coffee Mornings Episode 19, we explore how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the role of Generation Z in the workforce. As AI shifts from a tech-centric tool to a mainstream workplace asset, we explore the complex interplay of hopes and concerns that AI evokes among Gen Z workers. Our choice of this topic is rooted in the undeniable reality that AI has become an integral part of our working lives, and Gen Z workers find themselves at the epicentre of this technological revolution.

As of 2023, AI has evolved from a specialised, tech-centric tool to a mainstream asset in the workplace. This shift is not just about technology adoption; it’s a paradigm change in how work is done. Nearly a quarter of executives, as reported by McKinsey, are now incorporating generative AI tools into their daily tasks, signalling AI’s deepening integration into business operations.

However, this integration brings with it a mix of emotions and expectations, especially among Gen Z workers. A significant 76% of this young workforce, according to Forbes, harbours concerns about AI encroaching on entry-level positions, which are often crucial for kickstarting their professional journeys. These fears reflect the apprehension of AI as a potential job disruptor rather than an enabler.

“AI needs to be an ally rather than this kind of scary Terminator. We should focus on what we can control with it and how we support these young people.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

Contrasting these worries, however, is a sense of optimism. As highlighted in WorkLife, there’s an emerging enthusiasm among Gen Z workers about harnessing AI to augment their job roles. This generation sees AI not as a replacement but as a tool to enhance their capabilities and carve out new opportunities within their careers.

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the rising influence of Generation Z have sparked intriguing conversations. Are these elements friends or foes in the contemporary workspace? Our recent episode of Coffee Mornings addresses this subject, providing a nuanced perspective on this modern dilemma.

Gen Z: The digital natives in an

AI-driven era

The emergence of a tech-savvy generation

In our recent Coffee Mornings episode 19, we turn the spotlight on Generation Z, a cohort born into a world where digital technology is not just ubiquitous but intrinsic to daily life. This generation’s unparalleled fluency with digital technologies, from smartphones to social media, positions them uniquely in today’s AI-driven workplaces.

“Gen Z has a different attitude towards technology. They are tech-savvy and have been literally living with it since birth. This is just evolution.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

The Digital natives’ edge in the AI landscape

Gen Z’s early and seamless integration with technology goes beyond leisure; it reflects in their approach to work and life decisions. Their comfort with digital platforms is a key advantage as workplaces evolve to incorporate AI. With AI adoption rates among Gen Z leading at 29%, according to Statista in 2023, they are not just ready to use AI but also to innovate with it. This digital fluency positions Gen Z as both users and creators in the AI space, ready to leverage AI tools to enhance job roles and drive workplace transformation.

In essence, Gen Z’s role in the evolving landscape of work is not passive. They are at the forefront, actively engaging with and shaping the AI era, turning challenges like digital fatigue into opportunities for innovation. Their unique positioning as digital natives offers a glimpse into the future of work, where AI and human creativity coalesce to drive progress and efficiency.

AI as a collaborator, not a competitor

In a significant shift from the prevalent narrative, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being recognised as a collaborator in the modern workplace, rather than a competitor. This change in perception is crucial, especially for the Gen Z workforce, who are well-positioned to leverage AI for enhancing productivity and innovation.

“Debunking the myth of AI as a job stealer, we introduce AI as a job collaborator. Upskilling will play a big role in AI adaptation, and the early adopters, especially from Gen Z, will benefit significantly”. – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

Transforming work, not replacing jobs

AI’s integration into the workplace is not about replacing human jobs but transforming them. Goldman Sachs reports that AI could affect up to 300 million jobs globally, which constitutes about 18% of all jobs. However, affecting jobs doesn’t equate to eliminating them. Many of these roles are expected to evolve with AI, blending human creativity with AI efficiency. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 predicts a 40% increase in AI and machine learning specialists by 2027, indicating the creation of new job opportunities.

“AI is changing the landscape of entry-level jobs. We must adapt and find new ways to integrate Gen Z into the workforce.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

Boosting productivity and creativity

“Gen Z is not just using AI; they are creators in the AI space. Their inclination towards technology is crucial for understanding and leveraging AI tools in enhancing their job roles.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant

AI is increasingly seen as a tool to enhance productivity. For example, AI-assisted tools help individuals gather data and improve work efficiency, as noted by IEEE Future Directions. By automating mundane and repetitive tasks, AI frees up Gen Z workers to focus on strategic, creative, and value-driven endeavours. This not only increases efficiency but also allows workers to engage in more fulfilling and impactful work.

The synergy between AI and Human intellect

AI provides real-time data analytics and insights, enhancing decision-making and problem-solving. AI-powered tools are fostering seamless communication and teamwork, even across geographical boundaries. For Gen Z, who value meaningful work and seek to make a positive impact, AI acts as a powerful ally, augmenting their capabilities and enabling continuous learning.

Embracing AI for future success

As Gen Z navigates the complexities of the digital era, embracing AI as a collaborative partner is key to achieving career goals and driving meaningful change. AI’s role in the workplace is evolving from a feared job threat to an empowering tool, opening new avenues for innovation and productivity. This paradigm shift is essential for companies looking to engage and retain Gen Z talent, urging them to recalibrate their talent strategies to align with the opportunities presented by AI.

“The challenge for Gen Z is not just about adapting to AI but also in finding new ways to add value in an AI-dominated job market.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

As Robbie mentions AI as a collaborator presents a myriad of opportunities for Gen Z workers. It’s not just about adapting to AI; it’s about using it to transform jobs and create a more dynamic, efficient, and fulfilling work environment. This redefined relationship between AI and the workforce is paving the way for a future where technology and human ingenuity coexist and complement each other, leading to unparalleled growth and innovation.

The New Collar Jobs

In the emerging world of modern work, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is steadily proving to be a collaborative force rather than a competitive threat. This shift is profoundly reshaping the job market, giving rise to what are now known as ‘new collar’ jobs. These roles, such as AI Ethics Officers and AI Trainers, signal a move towards a more technologically integrated work ecosystem and are pivotal in adapting to the changing job landscape.

“The emergence of AI ‘new collar’ jobs is steering the workforce away from traditional roles towards a technologically integrated ecosystem. Gen Z, with their digital fluency, is uniquely positioned to drive this momentum.”​​ – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

Emerging AI-driven roles

The rise of these new-collar jobs is not just a minor shift but a significant transformation. A study forecasts that by 2025, Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce, positioning them at the forefront of this AI evolution. Unlike traditional white or blue-collar jobs, these new roles blend human intellect with AI’s computational power, leading to a variety of innovative job titles:

  1. AI Ethicist: Addressing issues of bias, fairness, and transparency, the role of AI Ethicists is growing as ethical AI takes centre stage.
  2. AI Trainer: These professionals fine-tune AI systems, especially in customer service, making AI interactions more human-like. The World Economic Forum highlights the rapid growth in opportunities for this role.
  3. AI Auditor: Ensuring unbiased and accurate AI outputs, AI Auditors are becoming crucial in areas where AI’s decisions have significant impacts.
  4. AI Data Privacy Manager: As data privacy concerns escalate, this role becomes vital in ensuring the secure and ethical handling of data in AI operations.
  5. AI urban planner and climate change analyst: These roles are crucial in leveraging AI for societal and environmental betterment. AI Urban Planners utilise AI simulations and predictive modelling for sustainable urban development, while AI Climate Change Analysts apply AI models to analyse climate data and devise strategies to mitigate climate change impacts.
  6. AI Cybersecurity analyst: The integration of AI also brings forth novel cybersecurity threats. AI Cybersecurity Analysts are at the forefront of protecting against AI-driven cyber-attacks, showcasing the blend of technical expertise, critical thinking, and problem-solving required in the modern cybersecurity landscape.
  7. Prompt Engineers and other emerging roles: Roles like Prompt Engineers are emerging, alongside others like Machine Managers, Data Detectives, AI Business Strategists, and AI Explainers. These roles are essential for integrating AI into various sectors.

Gen Z’s role in navigating AI changes

As digital natives, Gen Z is well-equipped to transition into these new roles, leveraging their innate tech skills and adaptability. Key skills for these roles include problem-solving, critical thinking, effective communication, and a continuous learning mindset.

AI and education for Gen Z

Gen Z’s education in AI is essential to prepare them for this evolving job market. Interdisciplinary education, technical proficiency, and industry-specific knowledge are crucial in this regard. For instance, AI Ethicists might benefit from a background in both ethics and computer science. Continuous learning platforms like Coursera and certifications like Google’s AI Professional Certificate are pivotal in equipping Gen Z with the latest AI skills.

“Educational institutions and companies need to support Gen Z by adapting curricula and offering upskilling opportunities in AI. This prepares them for the evolving job market and ensures they are ready to take on AI-centric roles.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant

Support from educational institutions and companies

“Educational institutions are adapting their curricula to meet the new demands of AI-centric roles. Progressive companies are also investing in AI education and upskilling, particularly for Gen Z, preparing them for a job market increasingly dominated by AI technologies”. – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

Educational institutions are adapting their curricula to include AI-focused studies, while companies like IBM and Amazon are investing significantly in AI education and upskilling initiatives. IBM’s commitment to train two million learners in AI by 2026, with a focus on underrepresented communities, and Amazon’s investment in AI startups underscore the importance of upskilling in the AI era.

AI’s role as a collaborator in the workforce opens new avenues for job creation and evolution. As Gen Z navigates this landscape, their unique positioning as digital natives and their adaptability to AI-driven environments make them ideal candidates for these emerging roles. The proactive steps taken by educational institutions and companies in upskilling and educating the workforce, particularly Gen Z, are pivotal in harnessing the full potential of AI in the job market.

The ethical dilemma of AI: Gen Z at the forefront

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more intertwined with our daily lives, the ethical implications of its use are coming into sharper focus. The increasing integration of AI into various sectors has led to a surge in demand for roles like AI ethics officers and AI auditors. These positions are essential for ensuring the responsible and ethical usage of AI technologies.

“Compliance and legal matters around AI are becoming increasingly important. There’s a delicate balance between utilising AI for efficiency and maintaining ethical standards.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.

Gen Z’s pivotal role in AI ethics

Generation Z, known for their digital nativity and heightened sense of social justice, is uniquely positioned to navigate the ethical challenges posed by AI. They are leading the way in addressing critical ethical concerns that arise with AI advancements.

  • Bias and Fairness: One of the major concerns in AI is algorithmic bias. The data used to train AI systems can perpetuate existing societal biases, raising significant ethical questions. A study by the AI Now Institute highlights that about 40% of AI systems tend to carry biases due to flawed data inputs. Gen Z, with their strong inclination towards social justice, are likely to challenge and work towards mitigating these biases.
  • Privacy concerns:  In an era where data privacy is paramount, balancing individual privacy with AI-driven services is crucial. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, around 74% of internet users express privacy concerns when it comes to data-driven AI services. Gen Z is expected to advocate for robust data privacy measures, ensuring that personal information is safeguarded while leveraging AI for the public good.
  • Transparency and accountability: The complexity of AI algorithms often leads to a lack of transparency, known as the ‘black box’ problem. Gen Z is likely to push for greater transparency in AI operations and clear accountability for AI-induced actions.
  • Autonomy and decision-making: The use of AI in decision-making raises questions about human autonomy. It’s predicted that Gen Z will strive to ensure that crucial decisions maintain a ‘human in the loop’, preserving human judgment and autonomy in AI decision processes.
  • Gen Z’s role in ethical AI is not just significant but necessary. They bring a fresh perspective, combining their digital fluency with a commitment to fairness and justice, making them ideal candidates to address and navigate the ethical dilemmas of AI. As AI continues to evolve, Gen Z’s influence in shaping its ethical use will be crucial in ensuring that AI advancements benefit society, maintaining the delicate balance between technological efficiency and ethical responsibility.

Takeaways: Reflecting on AI and

Gen Z

In sum, Gen Z’s role in an AI-driven work environment is not passive but active. They are not just using AI; they are creators and innovators, equipped with the skills and mindset to harness AI’s potential responsibly and creatively.

As AI continues to evolve the workplace, it’s essential to understand its role as a collaborator and the opportunities it presents for new job roles and ethical practices. Gen Z, as digital natives, are at the forefront of this transformation, shaping and being shaped by the AI era.

“Robbie and I had an interesting discussion about AI in the workplace. We agreed that AI isn’t about stealing jobs; it’s more about transforming them. The way we work is set to change dramatically due to AI, and the real value lies in how we engage with this technology. If you’re an early adopter, familiar with coding and understanding AI’s capabilities and limitations, you’re part of a revolutionary shift. We’re not just looking at AI for profit-making; its potential spans economic and sustainability realms, especially evident in sectors like biotech and healthcare. Here, AI’s role in data analysis and predictive programming can replace years and billions spent in traditional research. It’s all about how we interact with AI that’s going to drive significant changes.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

As AI continues to reshape the landscape of work, it presents both challenges and opportunities. For Gen Z, it’s about navigating a world where AI plays a significant role, while for businesses, it’s about leveraging AI responsibly and ethically. In the words of Sam and Robbie, AI is not a foe but a potential ally, with the right approach and mindset. But they do warn that overreliance and complete autonomy can prove to be risky.

“There’s a fine line in AI use. We need to balance optimising processes with not becoming overly reliant on automation.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant.