MORE than being overly concerned about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs, private and public sectors are urged to immediately address the talent crisis that the information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) industry is facing, a top official of the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) said.
“AI has long been here. That’s why it is more urgent to address the talent gap,” said Ibpap president Jack Madrid during the 2023 Cebu IT-BPO Organization’s Transformation Summit on Friday, May 26, 2023. “AI compels us to continue to go through lifelong learning not only for students but also for our existing workers... It is all about skills. It’s no longer about college degrees.”
The Ibpap is the umbrella association representing the local IT-BPM industry. Amid the global headwinds, the industry is growing year-on-year with 1.5 million full-time employees, delivering US$32.5 billion revenues in 2022, accounting for nine percent share of the country’s gross domestic product.
Madrid stressed there already is a “severe talent crisis” that is plaguing the sector and that the gap between talent supply and demand has further widened.
With the pace of technology going so fast, Madrid said one can no longer assume that the present skills would remain relevant in the near future. That is why upskilling and reskilling of employees and students should remain a priority among industry players in the IT-BPM space and in the government in an already AI-driven economy.
Madrid said IT-BPM employees should be trained to handle complex jobs to deliver high-value export services and help retain the Philippines’ reputation as a leading offshore destination.
“The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines and our stakeholders recognized early on that Generative AI (GenAI) will inevitably change the way business services are performed and delivered, bringing a significant shift in the dynamics between jobs, skills and talent. We have since considered this both a daunting challenge and an exciting opportunity to dramatically strengthen the efficiency of global services delivery to customers by our current and future workforce,” Madrid said, reading Ibpap’s official statement on AI’s impact on IT-BPM jobs.
GenAI is a type of AI that can create a wide variety of data, such as images, videos, audio, text and 3D models.
Companies, according to Madrid, have long been doing proof-of-concept experiments to determine how they can leverage GenAI in their business operations to improve employee productivity, enhance customer experience, reduce costs, and increase top-line growth.
A good example is the use of chatbots to handle simple customer inquiries.
Entrepreneur Steven Yu, in an interview on Saturday May 27, said that while AI is relatively young and new in the Philippines, ChatGPT for instance, was able to make some inroads in terms of awareness of its usage. ChatGPT is the first public model of GenAI.
“We foresee an acceleration of AI adoption, and it’s being slowly appreciated to augment some functions, however, it will also depend on its progression in terms of ease of use,” said Yu. He added that if correctly used by businesses to augment certain functions it may replace certain job functions.
“In the current Philippine setting, there will be jobs that will become redundant. Therefore, it is imperative that we identify these possible setbacks and suggest solutions. Our advice to the workforce is to constantly level up their skills so they can always be productive despite technological advancements,” said Yu.
Madrid said intervention should be done in the early stages of a child’s education as skills formation take some time to which Yu agreed.
“We should be able to advise our students to choose courses which have lesser likelihood of being supplanted or replaced by AI or any technology.
Our technical courses should be reoriented to support functions or skill sets which will remain relevant in the AI-powered future,” said Yu, referring to functions involving personal interaction or beyond-AI knowledge decision making.
Despite GenAI’s potential benefits, Madrid said there are still some limitations associated with its use.
These include the lack of context-specific data, tendency for bias and other ethical concerns, shortage of AI-versed talent, and risk to data privacy and security.
A developing country like the Philippines with slower internet infrastructure compared to its Asian neighbors, will slow down the adoption of AI. Yu said this should buy the country and affected industries some time to retool, reskill, upskill and regroup.
To address the talent gap and the urgent need to continuously upskill existing talent and university students, Madrid said Ibpap recently established an AI Council that will partner and collaborate with learning academies and organizations like the Analytics Association of the Philippines.
Specific areas of focus will include programming, data science and data analytics, including data and AI ethics.
“There’s an urgency for us to bridge the digital gap and upskill and reskill our talents, especially now that we are back and part of the national agenda (in growing the Philippine economy)... We have gained a seat on the table,” said Madrid, referring to the Marcos’ administration’s strong support for the IT-BPM industry, the only association that was part of the New York delegation of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos last year.
For this year, the Ibpap expects to add 100,000 more jobs to hit 1.7 million full-time workers by the end of 2023 and a revenue of $36 billion.
May 29, 2023
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