Joanna Baidu, Youth Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa, Project Management Institute
From its Davos debut in January 2023, ChatGPT took just seven days to hit the one million user mark. According to a UBS report, it took Facebook 10 months and Twitter almost 25 months for the same. The conversational AI model ChatGPT, a nascent piece of technology then, is now being referenced as the new boogeyman. It’s not difficult to see why.
Concerns around the use of AI, from its potential misuse and ethical implications to the balance of innovation vs. disruption, have been swirling since ChatGPT went mainstream. There is great unease at the thought of AI replacing jobs. Investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts that 300 million jobs will be lost or degraded by AI. The World Economic Forum found that the global economy will shed 14 million jobs over the next five years as the economy weakens and companies boost the adoption of AI technologies.
Students across various educational institutions have good reasons to be anxious. According to the Institute of the Future, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet! While it is easy to speculate about the types of jobs automation will make obsolete, it is with no certainty that we can make any assumptions. An Elon Musk tweet from 2018 balances the argument. He tweeted, “Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”
There is no denying that AI will profoundly impact the future of work. Tech innovations of the past decade have already made bank tellers, cashiers, telemarketers, and travel agents relics of the past. Generative AI holds the potential to take over segments of marketing, copywriting, design, customer support, legal work, etc. It remains aware of its limitations, though, and believes that “jobs that require a high degree of creativity or interpersonal skills are less likely to be replaced by AI.” These skills are innate to project managers.
PMI’s Talent Gap predicts an increase in the number of jobs requiring project management-oriented skills from higher demand due to economic growth and retirement rates. These trends will create a global need for 25 million new project professionals by 2030. If the roles are not filled, it could result in a possible loss of up to $345.5 billion in global GDP.
Regardless of which way the pendulum swings and which jobs AI swallows, it is prudent that the youth commit to lifelong learning and upskilling. Joining a professional association is strongly recommended for students and early career professionals. Staying informed about trends, access to learning resources, and being intentional about professional development will give the youth the head start to prepare for the future of work.
Power or soft skills are one of the most essential skills a membership can help you sharpen. Being a member of an association opens avenues to volunteer. One can step into multiple “official” roles, such as youth ambassador and student coordinator, which will help develop power skills. Having real-world experience using power skills to accomplish goals or overcome obstacles gives one a tremendous edge when job-hunting. There are associations or organisations that cater to nearly every type of profession. For project management, it is the Project Management Institute, a for-purpose, not-for-profit organisation.
At PMI, student members enjoy the same valuable benefits afforded to practitioners. Student members receive digital downloads of the latest PMBOK Guide, certification discounts, and access to tools and resources such as PMI’s Career Navigator, which supports career progression by creating a personalised plan. Student members also gain access to networking opportunities through various events and activities and instantly join a network of over 450,000 project professionals worldwide.
AI has the potential to disrupt life as we know it and destroy the work we do now. However, as a student, there are things you can do now to ensure you are prepared, build your professional equity, network, and find a mentor. Membership in an association can do all that and give you the comfort of being part of a larger community with common interests.