Top 5 Societal Competences for an AI Professional

Article by Christina Todorova, Researcher at European Software Institute – Center Eastern Europe, Bulgaria

Although not a new discipline by any means, Artificial Intelligence has been on a path of sustainable rediscovery within the past decade, especially within the context of AI trustworthiness, lawfulness, and technical robustness. This drive towards new requirements for a human-centred approach to artificial intelligence development, integration, and usage, has led to a shift in the societal competences, required for professionals in the field.

While professionals and students in the field are worried about how this will impact the already existing mismatch between the supply and demand of talent in the field of AI, Grand View Research states that the global artificial intelligence market size was valued at USD 62.35 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.2% from 2021 to 2028.

AI is a broad, multi-disciplinary study, encompassing engineering, mathematics, computer science, and now, more than ever before societal awareness.

This is why, among the first outputs of HCAIM, a project aimed at developing a combined AI master’s program, addressing the market and industry needs with regards to human-centred artificial intelligence, is a study of the most wanted societal competences for a working professional in the field of artificial intelligence.

As part of the Needs and Market Analysis, we have interviewed 49 industry and research representatives across Europe, coming from enterprises of all sizes and application domains in AI, with year-long experience in the field. So, if you’re evaluating career options in the field, or looking at ways to complement your competences in the sector, find out more about the top 5 societal competences, according to the HCAIM industry correspondents.

Photo by fauxels.

1. The Ability to Innovate

Among the highest-rated abilities in terms of societal competences, has been the ability to innovate. According to the e-Competence Framework, this ability is rooted in the capacity to devise creative solutions for the provision of new concepts, ideas, products, or services. Innovative professionals can deploy novel and open thinking to envision the exploitation of technological advances to address business and societal needs or research direction. So, if you are looking for ways to cultivate your ability to innovate and think outside the box, we recommend that you follow closely existing trends and innovations in the field, and exercise your creativity, even on paper, by mixing technologies and approaches to create new products or find innovative ways to use them, to address topics of social importance.

2. Abide by ethical code of conduct

An ever-increasing skill against the backdrop of the need for human-centred technology development is the ability to abide by ethical codes of conduct. This is defined as the ability to conform to and follow the ethical code of conduct promoted by companies and businesses at large. Professionals that abide by the ethical code of conduct make sure that operations, activities, algorithms, and applications developed by them, comply with the code of conduct and ethical operations of the supply chain throughout.

Especially for professionals in the field of artificial intelligence, we recommend studying and following the ethics guidelines, set in place by the EU Expert Group on AI. More information can be found here.

3. Needs identification

The ability to identify needs, according to the e-Competence Framework is closely related to the ability to actively listen to internal and external customers, while being familiar with existing trends, challenges, and opportunities in the field, to be able to better articulate and clarify their needs.

This entails, as imaginable, quite a plethora of skills, including customer relationship management, trend monitoring, and the ability to analyze business requirements. Furthermore, to identify needs means to think creatively and be able to innovate based on a predefined set of requirements. Proposing different solutions, performing contextual analysis in support of user-centred system design, and the ability to advise the customer or your management on appropriate solution choices are paramount for the development of the ability to identify needs.

Last but not least, professionals possessing the ability to identify needs are expected to act as advocates engaging in the implementation or configuration process of the chosen solution, as well as to abide by the ethical code of conduct while doing so.

4. Architecture Design

The skill to design architectures closely relates to the ability to specify, refine, update and make available a formal approach to implement solutions, necessary to develop and operate a given architecture. Especially in the context of agile practices around the industry, architecture design becomes increasingly a societal ability, due to its inherent requirement to recognize and adapt to changing requirements and the architectural components involved.

An AI professional needs to be able in the architecture design, to take into account ethics, interoperability, scalability, usability, and security while maintaining alignment between business evolution and technology developments.

5. Technology trend monitoring

Last, but definitely not least is the ability and habit for technology trend monitoring. A foundational skill for all of the above-mentioned competences, technology trend monitoring is paramount for everyone, working in the field of AI, among others. AI professionals must be able to investigate the latest technological developments, not only in the field of AI but more broadly in ICT, cybersecurity, and ethics, to establish an understanding of evolving technologies.

Summary and Conclusions

Being part of the development of ethical, trustworthy, and technically robust AI solutions, requires professionals to be able to devise innovative solutions for the integration of new technology into existing products, applications, or services or for the creation of new solutions.

The HCAIM project’s comprehensive analysis highlights the crucial societal competences that are becoming increasingly valued in the AI profession. These competences are: the ability to innovate, adherence to ethical codes of conduct, needs identification, architecture design, and technology trend monitoring. These findings underscore a significant shift towards a human-centred approach in AI development and emphasize the importance of balancing technical expertise with societal and ethical awareness.

Industry Implications

Findings: The AI industry in Europe is at a pivotal moment where integrating human-centred approaches into AI development is not only favoured but required, especially against the backdrop of current regulatory efforts putting ethical guidelines for AI in the forefront. This integration demands professionals who are not only skilled in technical aspects but also possess a deep understanding of societal impacts, ethical considerations, and user needs.

Recommendations: Companies should prioritize these societal competences in their hiring criteria and professional development programs. It is essential to foster a culture of continuous learning and ethical consideration, encouraging employees to stay abreast of technology trends, and responsible innovation. Establishing partnerships with academia can also help in shaping curricula that meet the industry’s evolving needs, including through sector-specific micro-credential courses and programmes.

Implications for Academia

Findings: There is a growing demand for AI professionals who are well-versed in both technical skills and societal competences. This dual requirement presents an opportunity for academic institutions to recalibrate their AI and computer science curricula to include more hands-on project-based training, as well as on-the-job training, recognized as part of the educational curriculum.

Recommendations: Educational institutions, including universities and colleges, are encouraged to enrich their offerings with courses that emphasize ethics, innovation, user-centred design, and technology trend monitoring, in addition to conventional technical training. This comprehensive educational strategy is essential for equipping students with a diverse skill set that aligns with both the present and future requirements of the AI sector. To further support the ongoing education and adaptability of established professionals in the field, there is a significant value in developing sector-specific micro-credential courses and programs. These targeted educational pathways provide a practical alternative to enrolling in extensive AI Master’s programs, offering focused training on ethical AI development and other crucial areas without the commitment to lengthy coursework. By forging partnerships with industry stakeholders, academic institutions can ensure that their curriculums are directly tied to the evolving needs of the market, thereby fostering a workforce that is well-prepared to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the AI industry.

For Job Applicants and AI Professionals

Findings: Job seekers and established professionals in the AI field must recognize the importance of societal competences related to ethics in their career development. Mastery of these competences can significantly enhance their employability and advancement opportunities within the industry.

Recommendations: Individuals looking to enter or advance in the AI profession should seek to develop and demonstrate their ability in the identified societal competences, especially relevant to ethical innovation. This can be achieved through self-study, formal education, or practical experience. Participating in projects that require ethical decision-making, innovative problem-solving, and user-centered design can provide valuable experience. Additionally, staying informed about the latest AI trends, regulations and ethical guidelines will be crucial for career advancement in this rapidly evolving field.

Final Thoughts

The insights we’ve gathered from our recent Needs and Market Analysis, after speaking with 49 dedicated industry and research representatives across Europe, have painted a vivid picture of what truly matters in the realm of AI today. It’s clear from our conversations that the competences we should value most in AI professionals aren’t limited to technical skills alone. They include the capacity for innovation, a steadfast commitment to ethical practices, the knack for identifying genuine needs, the skill to design thoughtful architectures, and the vigilance to keep a pulse on evolving technology trends. These findings underscore a meaningful pivot towards a more human-centric methodology in the way we develop, integrate, and utilize AI.

This shift is more than just a trend; it’s a reflection of the growing importance of societal and ethical considerations that are becoming inseparable from the technical narrative of AI. It’s a call to all of us, whether we’re industry stalwarts, scholars, curriculum architects, or those on the hunt for our next career move, to recognize that perhaps, we’ve not given the ethical dimension of AI the attention it rightly deserves.

This analysis serves as a pivotal signal for a change in direction—towards placing a greater emphasis on the ethical aspects of AI. It unveils a rich vein of opportunity for learning, personal development, and growth that is open to us all, regardless of our role in the expansive landscape of artificial intelligence. Let’s take this as our collective cue to broaden our focus and embrace the increasing need for a balance between technical prowess and societal sensitivity. This isn’t just about enhancing our competences; it’s about evolving them in a way that aligns with the future of AI—a future where ethics and humanity stand at the core of innovation.

About the Author.

Christina Todorova is an Information Security Researcher at the European Software Institute – Center Eastern Europe, based in Bulgaria. Her diverse experience and education have led her to explore the intersection of information/cybersecurity, behavioural science, and AI. Her passion is deeply rooted in designing sustainable educational curriculums and content that leverage technology to propel humanity forward. Through her work, Christina aims to support the shift towards a more trustworthy, secure, and human-centred technological ecosystem that uplifts communities globally.

* Grand View Research. Artificial Intelligence Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Solution, By Technology (Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Machine Vision), By End Use, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028. June 2021. Available online at: Link

Skip to content