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March 1, 2024

IFOW March 2024 Newsletter

Last week we were delighted to welcome three outstanding appointments to our Board of Trustees and to have our first meeting with newly-elected co-chair, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE.

Professor Gina Neff, Professor Sue Black OBE and Sana Khareghani all bring enormous experience to help guide our work at IFOW, and we are looking forward to how they – alongside our existing Trustees, including Naomi Climer CBE who has served as a superb co-chair and is staying on as Trustee - will shape our future. We are also pleased to announce that Dr Abby Gilbert is becoming a Co-Director of IFOW. More details on these fantastic appointments here.

One dimension of this future will be using our research to inform practical applications for businesses, helping them to develop new types of AI literacy and capacity building. For example, this month we are delivering two day-long workshops on this for Enterprise M3 (see below for details) and our Regulator Plus forum met last week to move forward on our forthcoming Sandbox that will see firms and regulators helping one another to understand how responsible AI adoption works in practice.

On 13th March at 5pm we also have the APPG on the Future of Work meeting on how technology impacts workers' wellbeing, with an expert panel including Nancy Hey, Professor Jolene Skordis and Professor Francis Green inputting into the UK Future of Work review being completed by our co-chairs, Lord Jim Knight and Matt Warman MP.

This commitment to academic research that informs governance and industry in ways that deliver a fairer future of better work is what drives all that we do at IFOW. We look forward to welcoming you at one of our events soon.

Anna, Abby and the IFOW team

Deep Dive - how are UK skills demands changing?

Last week, in partnership with the Centre for Economic Performance, we published a major new report into shifting skills demands in the UK labour market.

Automation is changing how work is organised, what tasks are performed and what skills are essential for success. Quantifying the scale and nature of these changes is vital: without the right mix of skills, economies cannot respond and adapt, nor take advantage of new technologies that could increase productivity. This is why research into skills has been a central part of the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing.

This new report analysed millions of job adverts and extracted information about what skills were being sought, offering a ‘live’ snapshot of skills demands at two moments in 2016 and 2022 as new technologies are increasingly integrated at work. Spanning multiple dimensions, the report found huge differences in the pace and mix of skills change across occupations more akin to the creation of new jobs than skills 'shifts'. New IT skills, such as the ability to work with AI, sustainability and ‘ethics’ skills, are emerging while others become obsolete. However, underlying this, the report finds that the importance of interpersonal and people-management skills continues to endure.

‘This analysis is crucial for anyone involved in shaping the education and training programmes that will be essential to ensure workers, firms and the UK benefit and thrive in times of continuous learning and skills development.' - Professor Stephen Machin, Director of the CEP

Interesting reads / listens

Giving people power over AI

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a reflective piece by Jeni Tennison and Tim Davies at Connected by Data on the democratisation of AI and the 'people's summit' that was convened in November. As they conclude, 'our narratives must also be hopeful rather than fearful... being realistic about AI’s faults and limitations and having agency over its implementation.'

Law and the political economy of AI production

As we work towards an industrial strategy in light of shifting global landscapes, this new paper by Petros Terzis, just been published via OSF, invites reflection on the role of AI in supporting development, especially around the flow of materials, capital, and power from the Global South to the Global North.

Making a 4-day week stick

One year on from 'the world’s biggest ever four-day working week pilot', Autonomy has a new review of how things are going. In short, over half of workplaces in the pilot have made the change permanently, and 89% are still continuing.

The future of work and working time

Connectedly, the Cambridge Journal of Economics has just published a special issue here examining 'working time reduction for full-time workers and the diversification and fragmentation of working time.' It has been co-authored by Professor Simon Deakin, who will be on the expert panel for our APPG session on productivity on 17th April, alongside Professor Philip McCann.

AI Fringe Perspectives

Following the AI Fringe events that IFOW was a key player at back in November, RAI UK has published a White Paper, with the aim of 'ensuring a diversity of views were collected from the academic community'. The full paper can be read here, including IFOW's contributions on workplace perspectives.

Tech skills Bootcamps

Relevant to the skills report in our deep dive above, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has launched a drive to get more people to sign up to digital Skills Bootcamps in cloud computing, cybersecurity and software development. No existing skills required. More about the scheme here.

Venture capital and AI - how should the future be funded?

A new paper in Economy and Society 'examines the venture capital-driven process of making intangible assets in platform start-up firms'. We will soon be publishing our Disruption Index report, which highlights where VC investments in AI and automation are occuring, and what the role of these investments is in shaping our future economy.


Building AI Readiness - a workshop for business support leaders (12th March, Basingstoke)

We're delighted to be working with Enterprise M3 to deliver two full-day workshops on AI-readiness and how to deliver tech adoption that supports good work. The first is for business support leaders in the Surrey and Hampshire region on 12th March (sign up here) and the second is for business leaders in that same region (sign up here). If you would like us to deliver something similar in your region, please do get in touch.

Tech and Wellbeing - APPG on the Future of Work (13th March, Westminster)

While concerns about the impacts of phone-use on young people have recently risen in public debate again, questions around the wellbeing impacts of what technologies people are exposed to at work have received less attention. As part of Matt Warman MP's Future of Work Review, this session with Nancy Hey (What Works Well Centre for Wellbeing) Professor Jolene Skordis (Director of UCL’s Centre for Global Health Economics) and Francis Green (Professor of Work and Education Economics in UCL Institute of Education) will explore how exposure to workplace technologies impacts workers' wellbeing. Further information and booking here.

Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference (12-13th March, NEC Birmingham)

Registration is now open for the UK’s most established workplace health and wellbeing event, at which IFOW researchers will be presenting findings from our Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. You can save £10 on a ticket by booking now.  

ELSA workshop on generative AI and creative arts (18th March, London)

A panel of top experts and researchers led by Dr Adrian Weller and Dr Umang Bhatt will discuss the transformative impact of generated AI content on the creative arts and its legal implications. Further information and booking link here. IFOW was recently awarded a grant by BRAID (Bridging Responsible AI Divides) to co-develop impact assessments that address fundamental rights and working conditions in the context of generative AI, ensuring that workers have a voice in the development of these technologies. As part of this, we will be running workshops for people in the creative sector; if you would like to hear more about attending these, please do get in touch.

Thank you for your time and interest.

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